Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg 2016 portrait.jpg
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Assumed office
August 10, 1993
Nominated by Bill Clinton
Preceded by Byron White
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
In office
June 30, 1980 – August 10, 1993
Nominated by Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Harold Leventhal
Succeeded by David Tatel
Personal details
Born Joan Ruth Bader
(1933-03-15) March 15, 1933 (age 85)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political party Democratic[1]
Spouse(s) Martin Ginsburg (m. 1954; death 2010)
Education Cornell University (BA)
Harvard University
Columbia University (LLB)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (born Joan Ruth Bader; March 15, 1933)[2]:3 is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Ginsburg was appointed by President Bill Clinton and took the oath of office on August 10, 1993. She is the second female justice to be confirmed to the Court (after Sandra Day O'Connor) and one of four female justices to be confirmed (along with Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, who are still serving).[3] Following Justice O'Connor's retirement and prior to Justice Sotomayor joining the Court, Ginsburg was the only female justice on the Supreme Court. During that time, Ginsburg became more forceful with her dissents, which was noticed among legal observers and in popular culture. She is generally viewed as belonging to the liberal wing of the Court. Among the notable cases Ginsburg has authored include United States v. Virginia, Olmstead v. L.C., and Friends of the Earth Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc..

Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York to Russian Jewish immigrants. She lost her older sister as a young child and her mother, one of her biggest sources of encouragement, shortly before graduating high school. She was a wife and mother before starting law school at Harvard, where she was one of the few women in her law school class. She transferred to Columbia Law School where she graduated tied for first in her class.

Following law school, Ginsburg turned to academia. She was a professor at Rutgers School of Law–Newark and Columbia Law School, teaching civil procedure. Still one of the only women in her field, Ginsburg was paid less than her male colleagues. Ginsburg spent a considerable portion of her legal career as an advocate for the advancement of gender equality and women's rights, winning multiple victories arguing before the Supreme Court. She advocated as a volunteer lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union and was a member of its board of directors and one of its general counsel in the 1970s. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit where she served until her elevation to the Supreme Court.

Early life and education

Born in Brooklyn, New York City, Joan Ruth Bader is the second daughter of Nathan and Celia (née Amster) Bader, Russian Jewish immigrants, who lived in the Flatbush neighborhood.[4] The Baders' older daughter, Marylin, died of meningitis at age 6 when Ruth was 14 months old.[2]:3[5][6] The family called Joan Ruth "Kiki," a nickname Marylin had given her for being "a kicky baby".[2]:3[7] When "Kiki" started school, Celia discovered that her daughter's class had several other girls named Joan, so Celia suggested that the teacher call her daughter "Ruth" to avoid confusion.[2]:3 Although not devout, the Bader family belonged to East Midwood Jewish Center, a Conservative temple, where Ruth learned tenets of the Jewish faith and gained familiarity with the Hebrew language.[2]:14–15 At age thirteen, Ruth acted as the "camp rabbi" at a Jewish summer program at Camp Che-Na-Wah in Minerva, New York.[7]

Her mother took an active role in her education, taking her to the library often.[7] Celia had been a good student in her youth, graduating from high school at age 15, yet could not further her own education because her family chose to send her brother to college instead. Celia wanted to see her daughter get more of an education, which she thought would allow Ruth to become a high school history teacher.[3] Ruth attended James Madison High School, whose law program later dedicated a courtroom in her honor. Celia struggled with cancer throughout Ruth's high school years, and died the day before Ruth's high school graduation.[7]

Bader attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where she was a member of Alpha Epsilon Phi.[8] While at Cornell she met Martin D. Ginsburg at age 17.[3] She graduated from Cornell with a Bachelor of Arts degree in government on June 23, 1954. She was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the highest-ranking female student in her graduating class.[8][9] Bader married Martin Ginsburg a month after her graduation from Cornell, and followed her new husband to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where he was stationed as an ROTC officer in the Army Reserve called up for active duty.[3][10][9] At age 21, she worked for the Social Security Administration office in Oklahoma, where she was demoted after becoming pregnant with her first child.[6] She gave birth to a daughter in 1955.[6]

In fall 1956, she enrolled at Harvard Law School, where she was one of nine women in a class of about 500.[11][12] The Dean of Harvard Law reportedly asked the female law students, including Ginsburg, "How do you justify taking a spot from a qualified man?"[3] When her husband took a job in New York City, she transferred to Columbia Law School and became the first woman to be on two major law reviews: the Harvard Law Review and the Columbia Law Review. In 1959 she earned her Bachelor of Laws at Columbia and tied for first in her class.[7][13]

Early career

At the start of her legal career, Ginsburg faced difficulty finding employment being a wife, a mother of a five-year-old daughter, and Jewish.[14][15][16] In 1960, despite a strong recommendation from Albert Martin Sacks, a professor and later dean of Harvard Law School, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter turned down Ginsburg for a clerkship position because of her gender.[17][18][lower-alpha 1] Later that year, Ginsburg began a clerkship for Judge Edmund L. Palmieri of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, a position she held for two years.[6][7]


From 1961 to 1963, she was a research associate and then associate director of the Columbia Law School Project on International Procedure, learning Swedish to co-author a book with Anders Bruzelius on civil procedure in Sweden.[19][20] Ginsburg conducted extensive research for her book at Lund University in Sweden.[21] Ginsburg's time in Sweden also influenced her thinking on gender equality. Ginsburg was inspired observing the changes in Sweden where women were 20–25% of all law students and one of the judges Ginsburg watched for her research was eight-months pregnant and still working.[3]

Her first position as a professor came at Rutgers School of Law–Newark in 1963.[22] The position was not without its drawbacks; Ginsburg was informed she would be paid less than her male colleagues because she had a husband with a good paying job.[16] At the time Ginsburg entered academia, she was one of fewer than twenty female law professors in the United States.[22] She was a professor of law, mainly Civil Procedure, at Rutgers from 1963–72, receiving tenure from the school in 1969.[23][24]

In 1970 she co-founded the Women's Rights Law Reporter, the first law journal in the U.S. to focus exclusively on women's rights.[25] From 1972–1980, she taught at Columbia, where she became the first tenured woman and co-authored the first law school casebook on sex discrimination.[24]

Litigation and advocacy

In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women's Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and, in 1973, she became the ACLU's General Counsel.[9] The Women's Rights Project and related ACLU projects participated in over 300 gender discrimination cases by 1974. As the director of the ACLU's Women's Rights Project, she argued six gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court between 1973 and 1976, winning five.[26] Rather than asking the Court to end all gender discrimination at once, Ginsburg charted a strategic course, taking aim at specific discriminatory statutes and building on each successive victory. She chose plaintiffs carefully, at times picking male plaintiffs to demonstrate that gender discrimination was harmful to both men and women[24][26] The laws Ginsburg targeted include those which on the surface appeared beneficial to women but in fact reinforced the notion that women needed to be dependent on men.[26] Her strategic advocacy extended to word choice, favoring the use of "gender" instead of "sex", after her secretary suggested the word "sex" would serve as a distraction to judges.[24] She attained a reputation as a skilled oral advocate and her work directly led to the end of gender discrimination in many areas of the law.[27]

Ginsburg volunteered to write the brief for Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971), wherein the Supreme Court extended the protections of the Equal Protection Clause to women for the first time.[24][28][lower-alpha 2] She argued and won Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677 (1973), which challenged a statute making it more difficult for a female service member to claim an increased housing allowance for her husband than for a male service member seeking the same allowance for his wife. Ginsburg argued the statute treated women as inferior, and the Supreme Court ruled 8–1 in Ginsburg's favor.[26] The Court again ruled in Ginsburg's favor in Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, 420 U.S. 636 (1975), where Ginsburg represented a widower denied survivor benefits under Social Security, arguing it discriminated against female workers the same protection as their male counterparts.[30] Ginsburg filed a brief for the case Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190 (1976), challenging an Oklahoma statute imposing different minimum drinking ages for men and women. The Court imposed what is known as "intermediate scrutiny" on laws discriminating based on gender, that is the government needed to show an important interest in imposing the gender based classification.[26] Her last case as a lawyer before the Court was 1978's Duren v. Missouri, 439 U.S. 357 (1979), which challenged the validity of voluntary jury duty for women as she deems women's participation in government service as vital and that jury duty should not be optional. At the end of Ginsburg's oral presentation, then-Associate Justice William Rehnquist asked Ginsburg, "You won't settle for putting Susan B. Anthony on the new dollar, then?"[31] Ginsburg said she considered responding "We won't settle for tokens", but instead opted not to answer the question.[31] Although Ginsburg never received a seminal ruling banning all gender based discrimination, her legal scholars and advocates credit Ginsburg with significant legal advances for women under Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and discouraged legislatures from treating women and men differently under the law.[24][26][30] She continued to work on the ACLU's Women's Rights Project until her appointment to the Federal Bench in 1980.[24] Later colleague Antonin Scalia praised Ginsburg's skills as an advocate, "she became the leading (and very successful) litigator on behalf of women's rights—the Thurgood Marshall of that cause, so to speak."[32]

Judicial career

Ginsburg officially accepts the nomination from President Bill Clinton on June 14, 1993.

U.S. Court of Appeals

President Jimmy Carter appointed Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on April 14, 1980, to the seat of recently deceased judge Harold Leventhal.[33] She served there for 13 years, until joining the Supreme Court.[34] During her time as a judge on the DC Circuit, Ginsburg often found consensus with her colleagues, including conservatives Robert H. Bork and Antonin Scalia.[35][36] Her time on the court earned her a reputation as a "cautious jurist" and a moderate.[37]

Supreme Court

Swearing-In of Ginsburg as Associate Supreme Court Justice by Chief Justice Rehnquist with President Clinton

Nomination and confirmation

File:Ruth Bader Ginsburg.jpg President Bill Clinton nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on June 14, 1993, to fill the seat vacated by retiring Justice Byron White. Ginsburg was recommended to Clinton by then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno[13] after a suggestion by Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch.[38] At the time of her nomination, Ginsburg was viewed as a moderate. President Clinton was reportedly looking to increase the Court's diversity, which Ginsburg did as the first Jewish justice since the 1969 resignation of Justice Abe Fortas and as only the second female appointee.[37][39] The American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary rated Ginsburg as "well qualified," its highest possible rating for a prospective justice.[40]

During her subsequent testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee as part of the confirmation hearings, she refused to answer questions regarding her view on the constitutionality of some issues, such as the death penalty. Ginsburg declined to give her view on the constitutionality of the death penalty, as it was an issue which she might have to vote on if it came before the court.[41]

At the same time, Ginsburg did answer questions relating to some potentially controversial issues. For instance, she affirmed her belief in a constitutional right to privacy and explicated at some length on her personal judicial philosophy and thoughts regarding gender equality.[42] Ginsburg was more forthright in discussing her views on topics about which she had previously written.[41] The U.S. Senate confirmed her by a 96 to 3 vote[lower-alpha 3] and she took her judicial oath on August 10, 1993.[44]

Ginsburg's name was later invoked during the confirmation process of John Roberts. Ginsburg herself was not the first nominee to avoid answering certain specific questions before Congress,[lower-alpha 4] and as a young lawyer in 1981 Roberts had advised against Supreme Court nominees giving specific responses.[45] Nevertheless, some conservative commentators and Senators invoked the phrase "Ginsburg precedent" to defend his demurrers.[40][45] In a September 28, 2005, speech at Wake Forest University, Ginsburg said that Roberts' refusal to answer questions during his Senate confirmation hearings on some cases was "unquestionably right".[46]

Supreme Court jurisprudence

File:O'Connor, Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Kagan.jpg Ginsburg characterizes her performance on the Court as a cautious approach to adjudication. She argued in a speech shortly before her nomination to the Court that "[m]easured motions seem to me right, in the main, for constitutional as well as common law adjudication. Doctrinal limbs too swiftly shaped, experience teaches, may prove unstable."[47] Legal scholar Cass Sunstein has characterized Ginsburg as a "rational minimalist", a jurist who seeks to build cautiously on precedent rather than pushing the Constitution towards her own vision.[48]:10–11

The retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in 2006 left Ginsburg as the only woman on the Court.[49][lower-alpha 5] Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times referred to the subsequent 2006–2007 term of the Court as "the time when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg found her voice, and used it."[51] The term also marked the first time in Ginsburg's history with the Court where she read multiple dissents from the bench, a tactic employed to signal more intense disagreement with the majority.[51]

With the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens, Ginsburg became the senior member of what is sometimes referred to as the Court's "liberal wing."[24][52][53] When the Court splits 5–4 along ideological lines and the liberal justices are in the minority, Ginsburg has the authority to assign authorship of the dissenting opinion.[52] Ginsburg has been a proponent of the liberal dissenters speaking "with one voice" and, where practicable, presenting a unified approach to which all of the dissenting justices can agree.[24][52]


She discussed her views on abortion rights and sexual equality in a 2009 New York Times interview, in which she said regarding abortion that "[t]he basic thing is that the government has no business making that choice for a woman."[54] Although Ginsburg has consistently supported abortion rights and joined in the Court's opinion striking down Nebraska's partial-birth abortion law in Stenberg v. Carhart 530 U.S. 914 (2000), on the fortieth anniversary of the Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973), she criticized the decision as terminating a nascent democratic movement to liberalize abortion laws which might have built a more durable consensus in support of abortion rights.[55]

Ginsburg was in the minority for Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007), a 5–4 decision upholding restrictions on partial birth abortion. In her dissent, Ginsburg opposed the majority's decision to defer to legislative findings that the procedure was not safe for women. Ginsburg focused her ire on the way Congress reached its findings and with the veracity of the findings.[56] Joining the majority for Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, 579 U.S. ___ (2016), a case which struck down parts of a 2013 Texas law regulating abortion providers, Ginsburg also authored a short concurring opinion which was even more critical of the legislation at issue.[57] Writing for herself alone, Ginsburg asserted the legislation was not aimed at protecting women's health, as Texas had claimed, rather Ginsburg asserted the law was meant to impede women's access to abortions.[56][57]

Gender equality

Ginsburg authored the Court's opinion in United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515 (1996), which struck down the Virginia Military Institute's (VMI) male only admissions policy as violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. VMI was a prestigious state run military inspired institution which did not admit women. For Ginsburg, a state actor such as VMI could not use gender to deny women the opportunity to attend VMI with its unique educational methods.[58] Ginsburg emphasized that the government must show an "exceedingly persuasive justification" to use a classification based on sex.[59]

Ginsburg found herself in dissent on Ledbetter v. Goodyear, 550 U.S. 618 (2007), a case where plaintiff Lilly Ledbetter filed a lawsuit against her employer claiming pay discrimination based on her gender under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In a 5–4 decision, the majority interpreted the statute of limitations as starting to run at the time of every pay period, even if a woman did not know she was being paid less than her male colleague until later. Ginsburg found the result absurd, pointing out that women often do not know they are being paid less, and therefore it was unfair to expect them to act at the time of each paycheck. She also called attention to the reluctance of women in male dominated fields may have to making waves by filing lawsuits over small amounts, choosing instead to wait until the disparity accumulates.[60] As part of her dissent, Ginsburg called upon Congress to amend Title VII to effectively undo the Court's decision.[61] Following the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, making it easier for employees to win pay discrimination claims, became law.[62][63] Ginsburg was given credit for helping to inspire the law.[61][63]

Search and seizure

Although Ginsburg did not author the majority opinion, she was credited with influencing her colleagues on the case Safford Unified School District v. Redding, 557 U.S. 364 (2009).[64] The Court ruled that a school went too far in ordering a 13 year old, female student to strip to her bra and underpants so that female officials could search for drugs.[64] In an interview published prior to the Court's decision, Ginsburg shared her view that some of her colleagues did not fully appreciate the effect of a strip search on a 13 year old girl. As she pointed out, "They have never been a 13-year-old girl."[65] In an 8–1 decision, the Court agreed that the school's search went too far and violated the fourth amendment and allowed the student's lawsuit against the school to go forward. Only Ginsburg and Justice Stevens would have allowed the student to sue individual school officials as well.[64]

In Herring v. United States, 555 U.S. 135 (2009), Ginsburg dissented to the Court's decision to not suppress evidence due to a police officer's failure to update a computer system. In contrast to Justice Robert's emphasis on suppression as a means to deter police misconduct, Ginsburg took a more robust view on the use of suppression as a remedy for a violation of a defendant's Fourth Amendment rights. Ginsburg viewed suppression as a way to prevent the government from profiting from mistakes, and therefore as a remedy to preserve judicial integrity and respect civil rights.[66]:308 She also rejected Robert's assertion that suppression would not deter mistakes, contending making police pay a high price for mistakes would encourage them to take greater care.[66]:309

International law

Ginsburg has also been an advocate for using foreign law and norms to shape U.S. law in judicial opinions, a view not shared by some of her conservative colleagues. Ginsburg supports using foreign interpretations of law for the persuasive value and possible wisdom, not as precedent which the court is bound to follow.[67] Ginsburg has expressed the view that looking to international law is well ingrained in tradition in American law, counting John Henry Wigmore and President John Adams as internationalists.[68] Ginsburg's own reliance on international law dates back to her time as an attorney as during her first argument before the court, 1971's Reed v. Reed, she cited to two German cases.[69] In her concurring opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger, a decision upholding Michigan Law School's affirmative action admissions policy, Ginsburg noted there was accord between the notion that affirmative action admissions policies would have an end point and international treaties designed to combat racial and gender based discrimination.[68]

Notable cases

Other activities

Ginsburg administered, at his request, Vice President Al Gore's oath of office to a second term during the second presidential inauguration of Clinton on January 20, 1997.[70] Ginsburg was only the third woman to administer an inaugural oath of office.[71] Ginsburg is believed to be the first Supreme Court justice to officiate a same sex-wedding, performing the August 31, 2013 ceremony of Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser and John Roberts, a government economist.[72] Earlier that summer, the Court had bolstered same-sex marriage rights in two separate cases.[73][74] Ginsburg believed the issue being settled led same-sex couples asking her to officiate as there was no longer the fear of compromising rulings on the issue.[73]

Despite their fundamental differences, Ginsburg considered Scalia her closest colleague on the Court. The two justices had often dined and attended the opera together.[75] In her spare time, Ginsburg has appeared in various operas. She has appeared in non-speaking supernumerary roles in Die Fledermaus (2003) and Ariadne auf Naxos (1994, with Scalia, and 2009), and spoke lines, penned by her, in The Daughter of the Regiment (2016).[76]

In January 2012, Ginsburg went to Egypt for four days of discussions with judges, law school faculty, law school students, and legal experts.[77][78] In an interview with Alhayat TV, she stated that the first requirement of a new constitution should be that it "safeguard basic fundamental human rights, like our First Amendment". Asked if Egypt should model its new constitution on those of other nations, she said Egypt should be "aided by all Constitution-writing that has gone on since the end of World War II", she cited the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of South Africa as documents she might look to if drafting a new constitution. She said the U.S. was fortunate to have a constitution authored by "very wise" men but pointed out that in the 1780s no women were able to directly participate in the process and slavery still existed in the U.S.[79]

During three separate interviews conducted in July 2016, Ginsburg criticized the then-presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, telling The New York Times and the Associated Press she did not want to think about the possibility of a Trump Presidency and joking she might consider moving to New Zealand.[80][81] She later apologized for commenting on the presumptive Republican nominee, calling her remarks "ill advised".[82]

Ginsburg's first book, My Own Words, published by Simon & Schuster, was released October 4, 2016.[83] The book debuted on the New York Times Best Seller List for hardcover nonfiction at No.  12.[84] While promoting her book in October 2016, during an interview with Katie Couric, Ginsburg responded to a question about Colin Kaepernick choosing not to stand for the National Anthem at sporting events by calling the protest "really dumb." She later apologized for her criticism, calling her prior comments "inappropriately dismissive and harsh" and noting she had not been familiar with the incident and should have declined to respond to the question.[85][86][87]

Personal life

A few days after graduating from Cornell, Ruth Bader married Martin D. Ginsburg, later an internationally prominent tax lawyer, and then (after they moved from New York to Washington DC, upon her accession to the D.C. Circuit) professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center. Their daughter Jane Ginsburg (born 1955) is a professor at Columbia Law School. Their son James Steven Ginsburg (born 1965) is founder and president of Cedille Records, a classical-music recording company based in Chicago, Illinois. Ginsburg is also a grandmother of four.[88]

After the birth of their daughter, her husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer. During this period, Ginsburg attended class and took notes for both of them, typed her husband's papers to his dictation, and cared for their daughter and her sick husband – all while making the Harvard Law Review. They celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary on June 23, 2010. Martin Ginsburg died of complications from metastatic cancer on June 27, 2010.[89] They spoke publicly of being in shared earning/shared parenting marriage, including in a speech Martin Ginsburg wrote and had intended to give prior to his death and Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivered posthumously.[90]

Although raised in a Jewish home, Ginsburg became non-observant when she was excluded from the minyan for mourners following the death of her mother. There was a "house full of women", but Ginsburg, as a woman, was excluded. Orthodox Judaism requires that ten bar mitzvahed men be present for a minyan and women are excluded from being counted. She notes that her attitude might be different, following her attendance at a bat mitzvah ceremony in a more liberal stream of Judaism, where the rabbi and cantor were both women.[91] In March 2015 Ginsburg, along with Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, released "The Heroic and Visionary Women of Passover", an essay highlighting the roles of five key women in the saga: "These women had a vision leading out of the darkness shrouding their world. They were women of action, prepared to defy authority to make their vision a reality bathed in the light of the day.[92] In addition, she decorates her chambers with an artist's rendering of the Hebrew phrase from Deuteronomy: "Zedek, zedek, tirdof" (Justice, justice shall you pursue) as a reminder of her heritage and professional responsibility.[93]

Ginsburg has a collection of lace jabots from around the world.[94][95] She stated in 2014 that she has a particular jabot that she wears when issuing her dissents (black with gold embroidery and faceted stones), as well as another she wears when issuing majority opinions (crocheted yellow and cream with crystals) which was a gift from her law clerks.[94][95] Her favorite jabot (woven with white beads) is from Cape Town, South Africa.[94]


Ginsburg was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1999 and underwent surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. During the process, she did not miss a day on the bench.[96] Physically weakened after treatment for colon cancer, Ginsburg began working with a personal trainer. Since 1999, Bryant Johnson, a former Army reservist attached to the Special Forces, has trained Ginsburg twice weekly in the justices-only gym at the Supreme Court.[97][98] In spite of her small stature, Ginsburg saw her physical fitness improve since her first bout with cancer, being able to complete 20 full push-ups in a session before her 80th birthday.[97][99]

On February 5, 2009, she again underwent surgery related to pancreatic cancer.[100] Ginsburg's tumor was discovered at an early stage.[100] She was released from a New York City hospital on February 13 and returned to the bench when the Supreme Court went back into session on February 23, 2009.[101][102][103] On September 24, 2009, Ginsburg was hospitalized in Washington DC for lightheadedness following an outpatient treatment for iron deficiency and was released the following day.[104]

On November 26, 2014, she had a stent placed in her right coronary artery after experiencing discomfort while exercising in the Supreme Court gym with her personal trainer.[105][106]

Future plans

With the retirement of John Paul Stevens in 2010, Ginsburg became, at age 77, the oldest justice on the Court.[107] Despite rumors she would retire as a result of old age, poor health, and the death of her husband,[108][109] she denied she was planning to step down. In an August 2010 interview, Ginsburg stated that the Court's work was helping her cope with the death of her husband and suggested she would serve at least until a painting that used to hang in her office was due to be returned to her in 2012.[107] She also expressed a wish to emulate Justice Louis Brandeis' service of nearly 23 years, which she achieved in April 2016.[107][110] She stated she has a new "model" to emulate, Justice Stevens, who retired after nearly 35 years on the bench at age 90.[110]

During the Obama presidency, some progressives called for Ginsburg to retire[111][112][113] so Obama would be able to appoint a like-minded successor, particularly while the Democratic Party held control of the U.S. Senate.[114] They pointed to Ginsburg's age and past health issues as factors making her longevity uncertain.[112] Ginsburg rejected these pleas.[52] She affirmed her wish to remain a justice as long as she was mentally sharp enough to perform her duties.[52] Moreover, Ginsburg opined that the political climate would prevent Obama from appointing a jurist like herself.[115]


Ginsburg has been named one of 100 Most Powerful Women (2009),[116] one of Glamour magazine's 'Women of the Year 2012,'[117] and one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people (2015).[118] She has been awarded honorary Doctor of Laws degrees by Willamette University (2009),[119] Princeton University (2010),[120] and Harvard University (2011).[121]

In 2013, a painting featuring Ginsburg, Sandra Day O'Connor, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan was unveiled at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. According to the Smithsonian at the time, the painting was on loan to the museum for three years.[122]

Researchers at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History gave a species of praying mantis the name Ilomantis ginsburgae after Ginsburg. The name was given because the neck plate of the Ilomantis ginsburgae bears a resemblance to a jabot, which Ginsburg is known for wearing. Moreover, the new species was identified based upon the female insect's genitalia instead of based upon the male of the species. The researchers noted that the name was a nod to Ginsburg's fight for gender equality.[123][124]

In popular culture

Ginsburg has been referred to as a "pop culture icon".[125][126] Ginsburg's profile began to rise after Justice O'Connor's retirement in 2005 left Ginsburg as the only serving female justice. Ginsburg's increasingly fiery dissents, particularly in Shelby County v. Holder, led to the creation of the Notorious R.B.G. Tumblr and meme comparing the justice to rapper The Notorious B.I.G.[127] The creator of the Notorious R.B.G Tumblr, then-law student Shana Knizhnik, teamed up with MSNBC reporter Irin Carmon to turn the blog into a book titled Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.[128] Released in October 2015, the book became New York Times bestseller.[129] Additionally, Ginsburg's pop culture appeal has inspired nail art, halloween costumes, a bobblehead doll, tattoos, and a coloringbook, among other things.[128][130][131] Ginsburg herself admitted to having a "large supply" of Notorious R.B.G T-shirts which she distributed as gifts.[132]

Since 2015 Ginsburg was portrayed by Kate McKinnon on Saturday Night Live.[133] McKinnon has repeatedly reprised the role, including during a Weekend Update sketch that aired from the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.[134][135] The segments typically features McKinnon-as-Ginsburg lobbing insults she called "Ginsburns" and doing a celebratory dance.[136][137] A screenplay, On the Basis of Sex, focusing on Ginsburg career struggles fighting for equal rights was named to the Black List of best unproduced screenplays of 2014.[138] The following year, actress Natalie Portman signed on to portray Ginsburg and Marielle Heller agreed to direct after Portman insisted on hiring a female director for the project.[139][140]

See also


  1. According to Justice Ginsburg, Justice Justice William O. Douglas hired the first female Supreme Court clerk in 1944, and the second female law clerk was not hired until 1966.[14]
  2. Ginsburg listed Dorothy Kenyon and Pauli Murray as co-authors on the brief in recognition of their contributions to feminist legal argument[29]
  3. The three negative votes came from Don Nickles (R-Oklahoma), Bob Smith (R-New Hampshire) and Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina), while Donald W. Riegle, Jr. (Democrat – Michigan) did not vote.[43]
  4. Felix Frankfurter was the first nominee to answer questions before Congress in 1939.[45] The issue of how much nominees are expected to answer arose during hearings for O'Connor and Scalia.[45]
  5. Ginsburg remained the only female justice on the Court until Justice Sotomayor was sworn in on August 7, 2009.[50]


  1. "As on Bench, Voting Styles Are Personal". The Washington Post. February 12, 2008. Retrieved September 17, 2013. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Ginsburg, Ruth Bader; Harnett, Mary; Williams, Wendy W. (2016). My Own Words. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-5011-4524-7. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Galanes, Philip (November 14, 2015). "Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem on the Unending Fight for Women's Rights". The New York Times. Retrieved November 15, 2015. 
  4. "Book Discussion on Sisters in Law" Presenter: Linda Hirshman, author. Politics and Prose Bookstore. BookTV, Washington. September 3, 2015. 27 minutes in; retrieved September 12, 2015 C-Span website 5, 2016/ Archived March 5, 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  5. Burton, Danielle (October 1, 2007). "10 Things You Didn't Know About Ruth Bader Ginsburg". US News & World Report. Retrieved February 18, 2014. 
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Further reading

External links

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Preceded by
Harold Leventhal
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
Succeeded by
David Tatel
Preceded by
Byron White
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Clarence Thomas
as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
Order of Precedence of the United States
as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
Succeeded by
Stephen Breyer
as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court