THE STORY OF RUTH: JUSTICE JUSTICE SHALT THOU PURSUE

Much has been discussed lately about the health of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.   My thoughts and prayers go out to her and her family.

Today, though, I want to personally express to her my deepest gratitude and celebrate with you her tremendous achievements as a lawyer who became the consummate champion of women’s rights.

She is the lawyer who literally fulfilled Susan B. Anthony’s dream that women would possess the same legal rights as men.  She accomplished this feat through her legal brilliance, steely determination and courageous dedication at a time when strong “career” women were treated with hostility and contempt.

A mere ten years after she strategically annihilated the legal barriers that may have deterred me from my chosen profession, over 50% of the students in my law school class were women.  The impact of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the lives of women in America cannot be overstated.  As the biblical Ruth was told of her undaunted devotion to Naomi, “may God bless you for your kindness.”

 

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the first Jewish female Justice of the United States Supreme Court.  Some might believe that the modifiers “Jewish” and “female” are irrelevant.  However, each justice brings to every opinion of the Court her own unique life experiences.   Today, she is the only woman on the Supreme Court at a time when the Court has become more conservative in its opinions regarding a woman’s reproductive rights.  

 

”]Hell hath no fury like Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Madame Justice’s status as a woman, a Jew, a mother, a wife, and a daughter of European Jewish immigrants have shaped her as a person and consequently her career as a legal advocate for women’s rights and as a judge.  She has endured the struggles and limitations of gender and religious discrimination in both her personal and professional life.  The obstacles she has faced underscore the magnitude of her achievements.

Imagine the state of our nation today without the resounding voice of Thurgood Marshall, who almost singlehandedly toppled an institutionalized racially biased legal system as the tenacious lawyer for the NAACP before becoming the first African American Supreme Court Justice.  Legal scholars and President Clinton proclaimed Ruth Bader Ginsburg the Thurgood Marshall of erasing gender discrimination in this country.

 
  

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Justice Bader Ginsburg displays in her chambers artwork in Hebrew depicting the command in Deuteronomy,

“Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof”: Justice Justice shalt thou pursue.

 Her brilliant  career  as a lawyer demonstrates her commitment to justice.  Partly inspired by the book The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, she chose to devote her legal acumen to eliminate the societal injustice of  gender discrimination that she endured  and saw reflected in the lives of all women.  

The path she has chosen in her life, shaped by her response to the adversity suffered by others, demonstrates her devotion to the Judaic principle of “tikkun olam”, the duty to repair the world.  Her subsequent service as a federal appellate judge and as one of the two women Supreme Court justices in the history of the Court further testifies to her efforts to repair the world through her pursuit of equal justice for all.

In her career as a lawyer prior to becoming a federal appellate judge,  she was involved in numerous civil rights and women’s rights groups, co-founding the Women’s Rights Project (WRP) of the American Civil Liberties Union.   As the architect of the legal strategy to end gender based discrimination, she carefully devised a plan to gradually bring a series of cases before the Supreme Court.  She first sought to educate the all male Court about the negative effects of gender bias demonstrated in the discriminatory experiences of ordinary Americans, brilliantly selecting both male and female clients.  Once enlightened, she urged the Court to apply the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to laws involving gender discrimination.

 

 

 

 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, circa 1972

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, circa 1972. Click picture for biography.

The facts of the last case she argued before the Supreme Court illustrate the impact of the small strategic steps she took to eradicate gender discrimination.  The state of Missouri had a seemingly obscure statute that allowed women to opt out of jury duty.  Professor Bader Ginsburg successfully challenged the law believing that optional jury duty demonstrated that women’s voices were deemed unnecessary to important governmental functions.  Equal rights requires equal responsibilities.

Justice Bader Ginsburg won all but one of the cases she presented to the United States Supreme Court and in the process changed the federal courts’ treatment of gender‐based complaints by eliminating discriminatory laws against women.  She paved the way for women to take control of their own destinies by harnessing the immense power of the Court she now serves. In doing so she remained true to her heritage:  Justice Justice shalt thou pursue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on February 11, 2009 at 1:00 am  Comments (4)