Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a Supreme Court Justice here to stay

Katie Couric interviews Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg
Katie Couric interviews Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg

WASHINGTON, August 2, 2014 – The Constitution should be the guiding force behind Supreme Court decisions. However it can hardly be debated that on social issues, ideology may influence those decisions as much, if not more, then our Nation’s guiding law.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg is seen as one of the liberal voices on the Court. Liberals worry that if the 81-year-old justice does not retire while Barack Obama is President, allowing him to replace her with another liberal, the next president will get to appoint her replacement. If that president is a Republican, he would likely appoint a conservative, reducing the number of liberals on the Court.

Ginsburg says she has no plans to retire.

“All I can say is that I am still here and likely to remain for a while,” she said, adding that she looks to former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis as a model. He retired at 82. “I expect to stay at least that long,” she said.

Ginsburg expressed that she will decide when she will retire and that will be when she feels she cannot think as “sharply and quickly” as she can now.

Speaking with Katie Couric, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg talks about the Hobby Lobby birth control case last month. Bader was a dissenting vote, along with Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Stephen Breyer.

When it comes to the recent Hobby Lobby decision, Bader believes the male Supreme Court justices who voted against her have a “blind spot” when it comes to women.

“Do you believe that the five male justices truly understood the ramifications of their decision?” Couric asked Ginsburg of the 5-4 Hobby Lobby ruling, which cleared the way for employers to deny insurance coverage of contraceptives to female workers on religious grounds.

“I would have to say no,” the 81-year-old justice replied.

Ginsberg compared her five male colleagues decision similar to an old Supreme Court ruling that found discriminating against pregnant women was legal.

“But justices continue to think and can change,” she added, hopefully. “They have wives. They have daughters. By the way, I think daughters can change the perception of their fathers.

“I am ever hopeful that if the court has a blind spot today, its eyes will be open tomorrow,” she said.

“I certainly respect the belief of the Hobby Lobby owners,” she said. “On the other hand, they have no constitutional right to foist that belief on the hundreds and hundreds of women” who work for them.

Bader has repeatedly shown that at 81 she is sharp, articulate and has plenty to offer both the Supreme Court and the American public. And that she has a keen sense of humor. One of her SCOTUS nicknames is  Notorious R.B.G., a twist on New York rapper Notorious B.I.G.

Ginsberg is a champion for women. She feels deeply about the Hobby Lobby decision.  As a litigator Ginsberg fought for women whom she believed were covered by the equal protection promise of the Constitution

In the 1960s she began working toward balancing gender distinctions in the law.

Some notable cases include:

Bradwell v. Illinois (1873), in which the court held that women could be barred from becoming lawyers.

Goesaert v. Cleary (1948), holding that women could be prevented from working as bartenders.

Hoyt v. Florida (1961), which said that laws could opt women out of jury duty.

Ginsburg became the first woman hired with tenure for the Columbia Law School faculty in 1972. Reports are that she spent more time there than at the ACLU offices. Around those offices, she was known as an 18-hour-a-day workhorse and a no-nonsense taskmaster — friendly enough, quietly empathetic, but a strict perfectionist.

Ginsberg has five victories in six Supreme Court cases. Using the 14th Amendment to erase gender lines in areas ranging from military benefits to jury duty to the administration of estates, Ginsberg affected hundreds of laws and regulations across the country.

Ginberg tells Couric that a caring life partner who is willing to share the work is important.  She was married to her husband, Marty Ginsburg, a tax attorney, for 56 years before he died of cancer in 2010.

“I had a life partner who thought my work was as important as his,” she said. “And I think that made all the difference for me, and Marty was an unusual man. In fact, he was the first boy I knew who cared that I had a brain.”

She reflects that far from traditional roles of the era, they shared housekeeping chores and child-rearing duties even as they both attended law school.

“You can’t have it all, all at once,” Ginsburg said  “Who — man or woman — has it all, all at once? Over my lifespan I think I have had it all. But in different periods of time things were rough. And if you have a caring life partner, you help the other person when that person needs it.”

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