Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The Honorable
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
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 Ruth Joan Bader
(1933-03-15) March 15, 1933
Brooklyn, New York, US
Political party Democratic Party[1]
Spouse(s) Martin Ginsburg (m. 1954; died 2010)
Alma mater
Religion Judaism

Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg (born March 15, 1933) 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 (after Sandra Day O'Connor) and the first Jewish female justice.

She is generally viewed as belonging to the liberal wing of the Court. Before becoming a judge, Ginsburg spent a considerable portion of her legal career as an advocate for the advancement of women's rights as a constitutional principle. 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. She was 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 1
  • Early career 2
  • Judicial career 3
    • U.S. Court of Appeals 3.1
    • Supreme Court 3.2
      • Nomination and confirmation 3.2.1
      • Supreme Court jurisprudence 3.2.2
    • Selected court opinions 3.3
    • Ginsburg Precedent 3.4
    • Other activities 3.5
  • Personal life 4
    • Health 4.1
  • Plans 5
  • Recognition 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Bibliography 9
  • External links 10

Early life and education

Born in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, Ruth Joan Bader was the second daughter of Nathan and Celia (née Amster) Bader, Russian immigrants, who lived in the Flatbush neighborhood.[2] The Bader's older daughter died when Ruth was still young.[3] The family nicknamed Ruth "Kiki".[4] They belonged to the East Midwood Jewish Center, 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 Minerva, New York.[4]

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 mother struggled with cancer throughout Ruth's high school years and died the day before her graduation.[4]

She graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where she was a member of Alpha Epsilon Phi, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in government on June 23, 1954.[5] In fall 1956, she enrolled at Harvard Law School, where she was one of nine women in a class of about 500.[6][7] 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.[4][8]

Early career

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 because of her gender.[9][10] 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.

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.[11][12] Ginsburg conducted extensive research for her book at Lund University in Sweden.[13]

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.[14] 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 also taught in Tulane University Law School's summer-abroad program.[15] In 1977, she became a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.

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. As the chief litigator for the Women's Rights Project, she briefed and argued several landmark cases in front of the Supreme Court, such as Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971), wherein the Court extended the protections of the Equal Protection Clause to women for the first time. She also argued Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677 (1973) and Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, 420 U.S. 636 (1975), which supported the ultimate development and application of the intermediate scrutiny Equal Protection standard of review for legal classifications based on sex. 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.[16]

Her last case as a lawyer before the Court was 1978's Duren v. Missouri, which challenged laws and practices making 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?"[17] Ginsburg said she considered responding "We won't settle for tokens," but instead opted not to answer the question.[17]

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. She served there for 13 years, until joining the Supreme Court. During her tenure on the D.C. Circuit, Ginsburg made 57 hires for law clerk, intern, and secretary positions. At her Supreme Court confirmation hearing, it was revealed that none of those hired had been African-American, a fact for which Ginsburg (an "aggressive support[er] [of] disparate-impact statistics as evidence of intentional discrimination") was sharply criticized.[18]

Supreme Court

Nomination and confirmation

Commissioned portrait of Ginsburg in 2000

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.[8]

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. 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.[19] The U.S. Senate confirmed her by a 96 to 3 vote[21] and she took her judicial oath on August 10, 1993.[22]

Supreme Court jurisprudence

(left to right) Sandra Day O'Connor, Sonia Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Elena Kagan on October 1, 2010

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."[23]

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.[24]

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."[25] One statement she made during the interview ("Frankly, I had thought at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don't want to have too many of.")[25] was 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."[26]

Ginsburg has also been an advocate for using foreign law and norms to shape U.S. law in judicial opinions,[27] 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. The two justices often dine and attend the opera together.[28]

In a July 2014 interview with Katie Couric, Ginsburg said that her male colleagues on the court have a "blind spot" for women's issues, citing the Hobby Lobby ruling.[29]

Selected court opinions

Ginsburg Precedent

More than a decade passed between the two successive terms in which Ginsburg and [30] In those hearings, she did not answer questions involving matters such as abortion, gay rights, separation of church and state, and disability rights. Only one witness testified against Ginsburg at her confirmation hearings and the hearings lasted only four days.[30][31]

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".[32] Democrats had taken issue with Roberts' refusal to answer certain questions, saying Ginsburg had made her views very clear, even if she did not comment on some specific matters, and that because of her lengthy tenure as a judge, many of her legal opinions were already available for review.

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

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.

In January 2012, Ginsburg went to Egypt for four days of discussions with judges, law school faculty, law school students, and legal experts. Part of the purpose of her visit was to "listen and learn" as Egypt began its constitutional transition to democracy. She also answered questions about the American justice system and the American Constitution. Ginsburg told students at Cairo University that she was "inspired" by the Egyptian revolution.[33][34]

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", adding, "I would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a Constitution in the year 2012. I might look at the Constitution of South Africa. That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, had an independent judiciary. ... It really is, I think, a great piece of work that was done. Much more recent than the U.S. 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 participate in the process and slavery still existed in the U.S.[35]

On August 31, 2013, Ginsburg officiated at the same-sex wedding of Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser and John Roberts, a government economist. This is believed to be a first for a Supreme Court justice.[36]

Personal life

A few days after graduating from Cornell, Ruth Bader married Jane (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.

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.[37] 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.[38]

Some Supreme Court justices and other prominent figures attend the Red Mass held every fall in Washington, DC at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. Ginsburg explained her reason for no longer attending: "I went one year, and I will never go again, because this sermon was outrageously anti-abortion," Ginsburg said.[39] "Even the Scalias – although they're much of that persuasion – were embarrassed for me."[40]

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 10 men be present for a minyan and women are excluded from being counted. She notes that her attitude might be different now, following her attendance at a bat mitzvah ceremony in a more liberal stream of Judaism, where the rabbi and cantor were both women.[41] In March 2015 Ginsburg, along with Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, released a feminist essay on Passover, “The Heroic and Visionary Women of Passover,” 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.”[42] In addition, she decorates her chambers with the phrase from Deuteronomy: “Zedek, zedek, tirdof” — “Justice, justice shall you pursue,” as a reminder of her heritage and professional responsibility.[43]

Ginsburg has a collection of lace jabots from around the world.[44][45] 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.[44][45] Her favorite jabot (woven with white beads) is from Cape Town, South Africa.[44]


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.[46] On February 5, 2009, she again underwent surgery related to pancreatic cancer.[47] Ginsburg's tumor was discovered at an early stage.[47] She was released from a New York City hospital, eight days after the surgery and heard oral arguments again four days later.

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.[48]

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.[49][50]


With the retirement of John Paul Stevens in 2010, Ginsburg became, at age 77, the eldest justice on the Court.[51] Despite rumors she would retire as a result of old age, poor health, and the death of her husband,[52][53] 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.[51] She also expressed a wish to emulate Justice Louis Brandeis' service of nearly 23 years, which would get her to April 2016.[51][54] She has also stated that she has a new "model" to emulate, Justice Stevens, who retired after nearly 35 years on the bench at age 90.[54]


In 2009 Forbes named Ginsburg among the 100 Most Powerful Women.[55] In 2015, she was named by Time Magazine as one of the Time 100, as an Icon.[56]

In 2009 Ginsburg was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Willamette University.[57] In 2010 she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Princeton University.[58] In 2011 she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University.[59]

See also


  1. ^ "As on Bench, Voting Styles Are Personal". 2008-02-12. Retrieved 2013-09-17. 
  2. ^ "Book Discussion on Sisters in Law" Presenter: Linda Hirshman, author. Politics and Prose Bookstore. BookTV, Washington. 2015-09-03. 27 minutes in. Retrieved 12 September 2015 C-Span website
  3. ^ Burton, Danielle (October 1, 2007). "10 Things You Didn't Know About Ruth Bader Ginsburg". US News & World Report. Retrieved February 18, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Ruth Bader Ginsburg". The  
  5. ^ Scanlon, Jennifer (1999). Significant contemporary American feminists: a biographical sourcebook. Greenwood Press. p. 118.  
  6. ^ Ginsburg, Ruth Bader (2004). "The Changing Complexion of Harvard Law School" (PDF). Harvard Women's Law Journal 27: 303. Retrieved December 9, 2012. 
  7. ^ Anas, Brittany (September 20, 2012). "Ruth Bader Ginsburg at CU-Boulder: Gay marriage likely to come before Supreme Court within a year". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved December 9, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b Toobin, Jeffrey (2007). The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, New York, Doubleday, p. 82. ISBN 978-0-385-51640-2
  9. ^ Lewis, Neil (June 15, 1993). "The Supreme Court: Woman in the News; Rejected as a Clerk, Chosen as a Justice: Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg". The New York Times. Retrieved October 5, 2010. 
  10. ^ Greenhouse, Linda (August 30, 2006). "Women Suddenly Scarce Among Justices' Clerks". The New York Times (registration required). Retrieved June 27, 2010. 
  11. ^ Ginsburg, Ruth Bader; Bruzelius, Anders (1965). Civil Procedure in Sweden.  
  12. ^ Riesenfeld, Stefan A. (June 1967). "Reviewed Works: Civil Procedure in Sweden by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anders Bruzelius; Civil Procedure in Italy by Mauro Cappelletti, Joseph M. Perillo".  
  13. ^ Bayer, Linda N. (2000). Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Women of Achievement). Philadelphia. Chelsea House. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-7910-5287-7.
  14. ^ "About the Reporter". Retrieved June 29, 2008. 
  15. ^ "Summer Abroad".  
  16. ^ Pullman, Sandra (March 7, 2006). "Tribute: The Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and WRP Staff". Accessed November 18, 2010.
  17. ^ a b 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.
  18. ^ Whelan, Ed (May 12, 2010) What Happened to the Consensus-Builder?, National Review Online
  19. ^ Bennard, Kristina Silja (August 2005), The Confirmation Hearings of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Answering Questions While Maintaining Judicial Impartiality (PDF), Washington, D.C.:  
  20. ^ "Project Vote Smart". Retrieved December 19, 2010. 
  21. ^ The three negative votes came from conservative Republican Senators – Don Nickles (Oklahoma), Bob Smith (New Hampshire) and Jesse Helms (North Carolina), while Donald W. Riegle, Jr. (Democrat – Michigan) did not vote.[20]
  22. ^ "Members of the Supreme Court of the United States".  
  23. ^ DLC: Judge Not by William A. Galston
  24. ^ , 13 May 2013ABA JournalPusey, Allen. "Ginsburg: Court should have avoided broad-based decision in Roe v. Wade," , accessed 5 July 2013.
  25. ^ a b Bazelon, Emily (July 7, 2009). "The Place of Women on the Court". The New York Times. Retrieved September 1, 2010. 
  26. ^  
  27. ^ Liptak, Adam (April 11, 2009). "Ginsburg Shares Views on Influence of Foreign Law on Her Court, and Vice Versa". The New York Times. Retrieved March 7, 2012. 
  28. ^ Biskupic, Joan (December 25, 2007). "Ginsburg, Scalia Strike a Balance" USA Today. Accessed August 24, 2009.
  29. ^ Goodwin, Liz. "Exclusive: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Hobby Lobby Dissent". Yahoo News. Retrieved August 1, 2014. 
  30. ^ a b Comiskey, Michael (June 1994). "The Usefulness of Senate Confirmation Hearings for Judicial Nominees: The Case of Ruth Bader Ginsburg".  
  31. ^ Conroy, Scott (February 11, 2009). "Madame Justice".  
  32. ^ "Bench Memos: Ginsburg on Roberts Hearings".  
  33. ^ "U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Visits Egypt." (Press release). U.S. Embassy Cairo. January 28, 2012. Retrieved February 5, 2012. 
  34. ^ "Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg Expresses Admiration for Egyptian Revolution and Democratic Transition" (Press release). U.S. Embassy Cairo. February 1, 2012. Retrieved February 5, 2012. 
  35. ^ de Vogue, Ariane (February 3, 2012). "Ginsburg Likes S. Africa as Model for Egypt". ABC News. Retrieved February 7, 2012. 
  36. ^ "Justice Ginsburg officiates at same-sex wedding". FoxNews. September 1, 2013. Retrieved September 3, 2013. 
  37. ^ "Husband of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies". The Washington Post. June 27, 2010. Retrieved June 27, 2010. 
  38. ^ Lithwick, Dahlia. "The Mother of All Grizzlies". Slate. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  39. ^  
  40. ^ "'"Biden, 5 justices attend annual 'Red Mass.  
  41. ^ Ginsburg Is Latest Justice to Reflect on Faith Washington Post, 15 Jan 2008
  42. ^ Justice Ginsburg has released a new feminist take on the Passover narrative Washington Post, 18 March 2015
  43. ^
  44. ^ a b c "Justice Ginsburg Exhibits Her Famous Collar Collection | Watch the video - Yahoo News". Retrieved 2015-03-20. 
  45. ^ a b MAKERS Team (August 1, 2014). "'"Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Owns a 'Dissenting Collar. MAKERS. Retrieved 2015-03-20. 
  46. ^ Garry, Stephanie (February 6, 2009). "For Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Hopeful Signs in Grim News about Pancreatic Cancer". St. Petersburg Times. Accessed August 24, 2009.
  47. ^ a b Sherman, Mark (February 6, 2009). "Ginsburg could lead to Obama appointment".  
  48. ^ Vicini, James (September 24, 2009). "Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg Taken to Hospital". This Blue Marble. Reuters. Retrieved September 24, 2009. 
  49. ^ Liptak, Adam (November 26, 2014). "Ginsburg Is Recovering After Heart Surgery to Place a Stent". New York Times. Retrieved November 26, 2014. 
  50. ^ McCue, Dan (November 26, 2014). "Justice Ginsburg Has Heart Surgery". Courthouse News Service. Retrieved November 30, 2014. 
  51. ^ a b c Sherman, Mark (August 3, 2010). "Ginsburg says no plans to leave Supreme Court". Boston Globe.  
  52. ^ de Vogue, Ariana (February 4, 2010). "White House Prepares for Possibility of 2 Supreme Court Vacancies".  
  53. ^ "At Supreme Court, no one rushes into retirement". USA Today. July 13, 2008. Retrieved August 6, 2010. 
  54. ^ a b Biskupic, Joan. Exclusive: Supreme Court's Ginsburg vows to resist pressure to retire, Reuters, July 4, 2013.
  55. ^ "The 100 Most Powerful Women".  
  56. ^
  57. ^ "WUCL Welcomes Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Campus".  
  58. ^ Dienst, Karin (June 1, 2010). "Princeton awards five honorary degrees".  
  59. ^ Ireland, Corydon; Koch, Katie; Powell, Alvin; Walsh, Colleen (May 26, 2011). "Harvard awards 9 honorary degrees".  



External links

Legal offices
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