Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the United States

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Biography

Introduction to Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, born in 1933, American jurist and professor of law, associate justice of the United States Supreme Court (1993- ), who has worked toward ending institutionalized discrimination against women. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 15, 1933. She attended Cornell University and the law schools at Harvard and Columbia universities. Despite graduating from Columbia at the top of her class, she encountered difficulties in finding a job in a traditionally male profession. In 1959 she secured a clerkship for the U.S. District Court of Appeals in New York. Ginsburg taught at Rutgers University School of Law from 1963 to 1972, the year she returned to Columbia Law School and became the first tenured female professor at that institution.

Ginsburg attracted notice in the 1970s for her teachings and litigation aimed at ending institutionalized discrimination against women. In 1971 she helped launch the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and served as the ACLU’s general counsel from 1973 to 1980. Between 1973 and 1976 she argued six cases on women’s rights before the Supreme Court, winning five of them.

Ginsburg received an appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1980. On the Court of Appeals she was known for her scholarly, balanced opinions. As a moderate-liberal, Ginsburg sided with both liberal and conservative wings of the court.

President Bill Clinton (1993-2001) nominated Ginsburg to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993. Ginsburg became the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court, after Sandra Day O’Connor, who was nominated in 1981.” (1)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Cancer and Retirement

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 81, the oldest sitting justice and a powerful voice in the judiciary. President Barack Obama, in an interview with The New Yorker published on Ocober 2014, said he disagrees with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader´s Retirement Analysis. In the background, Supreme Court Justice Bader Ginsburg has been hearing calls from liberal circles to retire .

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quotes

A conversation with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on gender discrimination, the death penalty, and her elephant ride with Antonin Scalia.

What Thurgood Marshall did for racial justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has done for women’s rights. In the 1970s, as a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, she argued six landmark cases on gender equality before the United States Supreme Court. Then, after being nominated by President Bill Clinton, she herself joined the high court as an associate justice in 1993. In September 2011, Justice Ginsburg spoke with Joan C. Williams, a distinguished professor of law at UC Hastings in San Francisco, before a live audience. This was published in Legally Speaking, a column of in-depth interviews with prominent lawyers, judges, and academics, coproduced by California Lawyer and UC Hastings College of the Law.

Q. Williams: I’d like you to talk a little bit about the cases that I’ve spent my life studying, the key gender cases that began in the 1970s, which you litigated and wrote amici briefs for. The 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law, had been settled interpretation for, I think, 104 years. What made you think that you could get the courts to overrule more than a century of precedent?
The times. The Court is a reactive institution. It’s never in the forefront of social change. When you think of Brown v. Board of Education, it was not only that Thurgood Marshall was a brilliant lawyer. It was the tenor of the times. We had just fought a war against an odious form of racism, and yet our troops through most of World War II were separated by race. Apartheid in America really had to go. Similarly, by 1970 the women’s movement was revived, not just in the United States but all over the world. As a great legal scholar once said, the Court should never react to the weather of the day, but inevitably it will react to the climate of the era, and the climate was right for that change.

Those cases, which are in the casebooks now, are commonly referred to as the formal equalities cases. For the record, was your only goal formal equality?
One has to begin at the beginning, and what we faced were statute books, state and federal, that were riddled with classifications based on sex. What we wanted was to open all doors for men and for women so that nobody would be blocked from an opportunity or pursuit of a particular course in life because he was male or she was female. That was the mission. But what we encountered when we approached the courts was that many people thought that gender discrimination operated benignly in women’s favor; that when women were told they couldn’t work at night or overtime because their hours were limited to eight, that all those protections sheltered women. It was hard for them to see that those so-called protections really operated, as Justice Brennan said in the Frontiero case, to put women not on a pedestal but in a cage.

As I look back on those cases, though, it seems to me that a central theme running through them was to deconstruct the gender system that associates men with work and women with family. I wonder what you think of that.

I think that’s exactly right. In fact, I’ve said quite often that if I were to invent an affirmative action plan, it would be to give men every incentive to be close to children. We would have a healthier world, I think, if men shared women’s responsibility for bringing up the next generation.

You’ve said that if your confirmation hearing had been held today, you would have never been confirmed to the Supreme Court because of your activism with the ACLU. What do you think has changed? Do you think it’s the confirmation process, or the politics more broadly, or something else?
In 1993 when I was nominated, and again in 1994 when Justice Breyer was nominated, there was a true bipartisan spirit prevailing in the Congress. The ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee back then was Orrin Hatch, and you can read Orrin Hatch’s autobiography where he describes with great pride how before the president nominated me and before he nominated Justice Breyer he called Senator Hatch and said, “Orrin, I am thinking of nominating Ginsburg or Breyer. Would that be OK with you?” That doesn’t happen anymore. I should say, by the way, that the White House people were quite worried about my ACLU affiliation. But at the hearing not a single question was asked by any senator, Republican or Democrat, about the work I had done with the ACLU. That would not happen today.

If you could accomplish one thing before leaving the bench – and assuming that all of your colleagues would magically agree – what would it be?
Well, I’d probably go back to the day when the Supreme Court had said that the death penalty cannot be administered with an even hand. But that’s not likely to be an opportunity for me. It is the hardest part of the job I do. Even today, I don’t know how many calls I got because there was an execution scheduled for seven o’clock tonight. That’s a dreadful part of the business. But I had to make a hard decision. I could have said, as Justice Brennan and Justice Marshall did: “I’m going to take myself out of this. I’m going to say the death penalty is in all cases unconstitutional, period.” But if I did that, I would have no voice in what’s going on. I would not be able to make things perhaps a little better. So I’ve stayed in that business.

Has being on the Supreme Court been more or less what you thought it would be like?
The most surprising thing for me was the high level of collegiality on the Court. You might not get that idea if you read, for example, Justice Scalia’s VMI [Virginia Military Institute] dissent. But that’s his style. His opinions are always attention grabbing, and with mine I’m rather, people say, bland. Maybe boring. So it’s a different style.

But how after deciding a very bitterly divided case, are you folks able to come to work the next day and see each other at the coffee machine? How does it work?
It’s because we don’t merely respect one another, we really genuinely like each other. I mean, Scalia is my biggest buddy at the opera. And in India, Justice Scalia and I once took a ride together on an elephant. It was quite a magnificent, very elegant elephant. But when my feminist friends saw a photograph of us on this elephant, they said to me, “Ruth, why are you sitting in the back?”

Ginsburg, Ruth Bader (1933_) Bio

United States Constitution Significance

According to the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, about its article titled “GINSBURG, RUTH BADER (1933_)”, in 1960, Justice felix frankfurter declined to offer a clerkship to recent law graduate Ruth Bader Ginsburg, explaining that the candidate was impressive but he was not “ready to hire a woman.” Thirty-three years later, on August 10, 1993, Ginsburg took the oath of Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court.


See Also

  • Justices Appointment
  • Reed V. Reed
  • Chandler v. Miller
  • Stone Harlan Fiske
  • Guide to Legal Assistance for Women
  • Justice Qualifications
  • Clarence Thomas
  • John Paul Stevens
  • Affirmative Action Controversy
  • Bork Nomination
  • David Souter
  • Anthony Kennedy
  • Nominating Criteria

Notes and References

Guide to Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This part provides references, in relation to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Ruth Bader Ginsburg by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Ruth Bader Ginsburg or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Ruth Bader Ginsburg should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Ruth Bader Ginsburg when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

3 thoughts on “Ruth Bader Ginsburg”

  1. Marc

    Honorable Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told California Lawyer Magazine: “I’ve said quite often that if I were to invent an affirmative action plan, it would be to give men every incentive to be close to children.” Does this mean she would give fathers affirmative action in child custody cases?

  2. Matt Campbell

    Well most men who have children would be much more involved in the child’s upbringing if: 1) In cases of divorce, women didn’t usually get custody 2) Mothers did not so frequently act as “gatekeepers” and/or denigrate the efforts the fathers of the children put forth to take care of them 3) Employers encouraged new fathers to take time off and/or just plain didn’t penalize them for doing so 4) General social and legal attitudes didn’t see fathers as disposable and/or vestigial at least and a nuisance or danger at most 5) The gov’t didn’t reward single mothers for staying single and/or having more babies Etc., etc. It’s commentary like hers that falls into the category of “insult to injury.”

  3. Kratch

    “In fact, I’ve said quite often that if I were to invent an affirmative action plan, it would be to give men every incentive to be close to children. We would have a healthier world, I think, if men shared women’s responsibility for bringing up the next generation.” I find it telling, in light of your claim to that your efforts were to deconstruct the gender system that associates men with work and women with family, that you would still refer to bring up the next generation as a “woman’s responsibility”, that men can share. Do you still see work as a man’s responsibility that women can simply share in? And why is it the blame lays squarely on men “needing incentives”? Are you not aware that there are millions of men who want to be close with their children, but are denied so by their ex’s and the courts? It is becoming truly tiresome that those who once claimed (and/or still do) any failure to achieve by women is due to discrimination, but are unwilling to acknowledge that, at least in part, men’s failure in family is also due to discrimination.

Leave a Comment