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Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg (born March 15, 1933) is an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United Statesmarker. Ginsburg was appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton with the support of Republican Judiciary Chairman Senator Orrin Hatch in 1993 and generally votes with the liberal wing of the court. She is the second female Justice — Sandra Day O'Connor being the first — and the first Jewish woman to serve on the Court.

Ginsburg spent a considerable portion of her career as an advocate for the equal citizenship status of women and men as a constitutional principle. She engaged in advocacy 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. She served as a professor at Rutgers School of Law—Newark and Columbia Law School. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Early life and education

Born in Brooklynmarker, a borough of New York Citymarker, New Yorkmarker, Ruth Joan Bader was the second daughter of Nathan and Celia (née Amster) Bader. The family nicknamed her "Kiki". They belonged to the East Midwood Jewish Centermarker, where she took her religious confirmation seriously. At age thirteen, Ruth acted as the "camp rabbi" at a Jewish summer program at Camp Che-Na-Wah in Minervamarker, New York.

Her mother took an active role in her education, taking her to the library often. Bader attended James Madison High School, whose law program later dedicated a courtroom in her honor. Her older sister died when she was very young. Her mother struggled with cancer throughout Ruth's high school years and died the day before her graduation.

She graduated from Cornell Universitymarker in Ithacamarker, New York, with a Bachelor of Arts degree on June 23, 1954, and that fall enrolled at Harvard Law Schoolmarker in Cambridgemarker, Massachusettsmarker, where she was one of only nine women in a class of more than five hundred. When her husband took a job in New York Citymarker, she transferred to Columbia Law School and became the first woman to be on both the Harvard Law Review and the Columbia Law Review. In 1959, she earned her Bachelor of Laws degree at Columbia, tied for first in her class.


Early career

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. In 1960, despite a strong recommendation from the dean of Harvard Law School, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter turned down Ginsburg for a clerkship position.

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 on judicial procedure in Swedenmarker. Ginsburg conducted extensive research for her book in Sweden at the University of Lundmarker.

She was a professor of law at Rutgers from 1963 to 1972. 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. From 1972 until 1980, she taught at Columbia, where she became the first tenured woman and co-authored the first law-school casebook on sex discrimination. She has also taught in Tulane University Law Schoolmarker's summer-abroad program.

In 1977, she became a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford Universitymarker. As the chief litigator of the ACLU's women's-rights project, she argued several cases in front of the Supreme Court and attained a reputation as a skilled oral advocate.

Her last case as a lawyer before the Court was 1978's Duren v. Missouri which challenged laws and practices that made jury duty voluntary for women in that state. Ginsburg viewed optional jury duty as a message that women's service was unnecessary to important government functions. 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?" Ginsburg, being cautious, did not respond to his question.

Judicial career

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. She served there for thirteen years, until joining the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court

Nomination and confirmation
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.

During her subsequent testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee as part of the confirmation hearings, she refused to answer questions regarding her personal views on most issues or how she would adjudicate certain hypothetical situations as a Supreme Court Justice. A number of Senators on the committee came away frustrated, with unanswered questions about how Ginsburg planned to make the transition from an advocate for causes she personally held dear, to a justice on the Supreme Court, the highest court in America. Despite this, Ginsburg refused to discuss her beliefs about the limits and proper role of jurisprudence, saying, "Were I to rehearse here what I would say and how I would reason on such questions, I would act injudiciously".

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. The U.S. Senate confirmed her by a 96-to-3 vote and she took her seat on August 10, 1993.

Supreme Court jurisprudence
Ginsburg characterizes her performance on the Court as a cautious approach to adjudication, and 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." Ginsburg has urged that the Court allow for dialogue with elected branches, while others argue that would inevitably lead to politicizing the Court.

Although Ginsburg has consistently supported abortion rights and joined in the Court's opinion striking down Nebraska'smarker partial-birth abortion law in Stenberg v. Carhart she has criticized the Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade as terminating a nascent, democratic movement to liberalize abortion laws which might have built a more durable consensus in support of abortion rights. 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." Other statements that she made during the interview were criticized by conservative commentator Michael Gerson as reflecting an "attitude . . . that abortion is economically important to a 'woman of means' and useful in reducing the number of social undesirables."

Ginsburg has also been an advocate for using foreign law and norms to shape U.S. law in judicial opinions , in contrast to the textualist views of her colleagues Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito. Despite their fundamental differences, Ginsburg considers Scalia her closest colleague on the Court, and they often dine and attend the opera together.

Some notable cases in which Ginsburg wrote an opinion:

Ginsburg Precedent
More than a decade passed between the time Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer were appointed and the time another justice left the Court. In that time, both the U.S. Congress and the White Housemarker had switched to Republican control. When O'Connor announced her retirement in the summer of 2005 (with Chief Justice Rehnquist's death a few months later), both sides began to squabble about just how many questions President George W. Bush's nominees would be expected to answer. The debate heated up when hearings for Roberts began in September 2005. Republicans used an argument that they called the "Ginsburg Precedent", which centered on Ginsburg's confirmation hearings. In those hearings, she did not answer some questions involving matters such as abortion, gay rights, separation of church and state, and disability rights, among other issues. Only one witness was allowed to testify against Ginsburg at her confirmation hearings, and the hearings lasted only four days.

In a September 28, 2005, speech at Wake Forest Universitymarker, Ginsburg said that Roberts refusing to answer questions — during his Senate confirmation hearings — on some cases was "unquestionably right." However, as the following sentence in the speech made clear, this statement did not affirm the existence of a precedent which the Senate Judiciary Committee was obliged to follow; it was merely a statement the nominee could, at his discretion, refuse to answer questions about how he might rule.

Democrats had argued against Roberts's refusal to answer certain questions, saying that Ginsburg had made her views very clear, even if she did not comment on all specific matters, and that because of her lengthy tenure as a judge, many of her legal opinions were already available for review.

During Roberts's Senate confirmation hearings, Senators Joe Biden (Delaware), Orin Hatch (Utah), and Roberts himself brought up Ginsburg's hearings several times as they argued over how many questions she answered and how many Roberts was expected to answer. The precedent was again cited several times during the confirmation hearings for Justice Samuel Alito.

1997 vice-presidential inauguration
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.

Personal life

A few days after graduating from Cornell, Ruth Bader married Martin D. Ginsburg, later a professor of law at Georgetown University Law Centermarker and an internationally prominent tax lawyer. Their daughter Jane (born 1955) is a professor of literary and artistic-property law at the Columbia Law School, and their son James (born 1965) is founder and president of Cedille Records, a classical-music recording company based in Chicagomarker, Illinoismarker. 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 55th wedding anniversary in 2009.


Ginsburg was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 1999 and underwent surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. During the process, she did not miss a day on the bench. On February 5, 2009, she again underwent surgery related to pancreatic cancer. Ginsburg's tumor was discovered at an early stage. Ginsburg was released from a New York hospital, eight days after the surgery and heard oral arguments again four days later.On September 24, 2009 Ginsburg was hospitalized for lightheadedness following an outpatient treatment for iron deficiency and was released the following day.

See also


  1. Equal: How Women Reshape American Law, p. 24 accessed via
  2. Staff writer. Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Undated. Accessed August 24, 2009.
  3. Toobin, Jeffrey (2007). The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court. p. 82. New York. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0385516402.
  4. [1]. The New York Times. (website registration required).
  5. Bayer, Linda N. (2000). Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Women of Achievement). Philadelphia. Chelsea House. p. 46. ISBN 978-0791052877.
  7. Von Drehle, David (July 19, 1993). "Redefining Fair With a Simple Careful Assault — Step-by-Step Strategy Produced Strides for Equal Protection". The Washington Post. Accessed August 24, 2009.
  8. [2]
  9. The three negative votes came from conservative Republican Senators — Don Nickles (Oklahoma), Robert C. Smith (New Hampshire) and Jesse Helms (North Carolina).
  10. DLC: Judge Not by William A. Galston
  11. Bazelon, Emily (July 7, 2009). "The Place of Women on the Court" The New York Times. (website registration required)
  12. Gerson, Michael (July 17, 2009). "Justice Ginsburg in Context", The Washington Post. Accessed August 24, 2009.
  13. Biskupic, Joan (December 25, 2007). "Ginsburg, Scalia Strike a Balance" USA Today. Accessed August 24, 2009.
  14. PS: Political Science and Politics, Vol. 27, No. 2 (Jun., 1994), pp. 224–227 (enabled computer cookies required)
  15. Garry, Stephanie (February 6, 2009). "For Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Hopeful Signs in Grim News about Pancreatic Cancer". St. Petersburg Times. Accessed August 24, 2009.


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