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The Life and Legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on Friday, September 18, 2020 from complications due to pancreatic cancer, but her incredible work will live on through the indelible impact she made. For the past three decades, as a Justice and for many years before that as a Circuit Court Judge and law school professor, Justice Ginsburg was a champion of the disenfranchised and worked to advance the rights of women and minorities in providing equal justice under the United States Constitution. Justice Ginsburg was affectionately referred to as the “Notorious RBG” due to strong dissenting opinions she issued in several high-profile cases.

Justice Ginsburg was appointed to the United States Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. She was only the second woman to be appointed to our nation’s highest court (with former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor being the first). Prior to her appointment, she served for 13 years on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. She also served as a law professor at Columbia University and Rutgers University after obtaining her undergraduate degree from Cornell University, attending Harvard University Law School, but ultimately obtaining her law degree from Columbia University.

Justice Ginsburg was a key figure in the women’s movement as she co-founded the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union in the 1970s and served as its general counsel and on its Board of Directors. During that time, she also argued six cases before the United States Supreme Court. Advocating for gender equality and women’s rights and challenging laws that sought to treat women differently than men, she implored the Court, “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”

Justice Ginsburg firmly believed that “[r]eal change, enduring change, happens one step at a time,” and her life-long commitment to her work served as the foundation for positive, enduring change. As a United States Supreme Court Justice, she was instrumental in continuing to push for and expand women’s rights, writing the majority opinion in United States v. Virginia in 1996, which struck down as unconstitutional Virginia Military Institute’s male-only admissions policy. In the 1999 case of Olmstead v. L.C., she wrote an opinion confirming that the Americans with Disabilities Act included protection for those with mental disabilities. Her powerful dissent in the 2007 pay discrimination case entitled Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber, led to the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, which made it easier for employees who were discriminated against in terms of their pay to bring claims. During her long tenure on the United States Supreme Court, she was also a strong advocate for privacy rights, voting rights, protection of the environment, and a woman’s right to choose.

Justice Ginsburg was a true pioneer and paved the way for generations of women on the bench and in the legal profession. She leaves behind a powerful legacy. “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” The attorneys of KSB Law will be forever grateful to Justice Ginsburg for her commitment and fortitude as a champion for women’s rights and gender equity.