Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. She is currently the only woman serving on the court.
Ginsburg was born Joan Ruth Bader in Brooklyn, New York, on March 15, 1933. She was the second daughter born to Nathan and Celia Bader. Her older sister died when she was very young. Ruth attended James Madison High School in Brooklyn. Her mother died of cancer the day before she graduated. Celia had taught Ruth to be strong and was actively involved in her education. She left her daughter money to attend college; in addition, Ruth had won a full scholarship to Cornell University.
Marriage and higher education
Ruth met Martin Ginsburg while attending Cornell University. They married in 1954. They had one daughter and one son. Ruth received her B.A. from Cornell in 1954. The couple attended Harvard Law School. When Martin graduated from Harvard Law, he accepted a job in New York City, and Ruth transferred to Columbia Law School, also in New York.
She won a place on the Law Review, becoming the only person to be listed on the review at both Columbia and Harvard. She earned her LL.B degree at Columbia, graduating with the highest grades in the history of Columbia Law School.
From 1959 to 1961, Ruth Ginsburg served as a law clerk for the Honorable Edmund L. Palmieri, Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In 1961, she became a research associate for the director of Columbia Law School Project on International Procedure.
Ginsburg then accepted the position of Professor of Law at Rutgers University, serving from 1963 to 1972. In 1972, she became a professor of law at Columbia Law School and remained at Columbia until 1980. She became the first woman to earn tenure, and she authored the first law book to be written on gender-equality law. She served as a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford University, California, from 1977-1978.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter nominated Ginsburg to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals on the D.C. Circuit. She served as a federal appeals judge from 1981 until President Bill Clinton nominated her in 1993 to succeed retiring Supreme Court justice Byron R. White.
Clinton was impressed by her life story; he praised her for her efforts to advance women's rights. During her confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate, Ginsburg refused to answer questions regarding her personal views on most issues, or how she would adjudicate certain hypothetical situations as a Supreme Court justice. However, she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a 96 to three vote and took her seat on August 10, 1993. Ginsburg is the first Jewish woman to serve on the court.
Justice Ginsburg on the issues
While Justice Ginsburg tends to lean towards the liberal side of the court's political spectrum, she has not hesitated to vote with her conservative colleagues. She shows a continued willingness to promote women's rights from the high court.
A sampler from her voting record:
Abortion. It's a woman's body and a woman's choice (July 1993).
Civil rights. Hate crime sentencing without a jury is unconstitutional (June 2000). Uphold "Miranda," informing people being arrested of rights (June 2000). Boy Scouts should be required to accept gay scoutmasters (June 2000).
Crime. States have broad powers to limit jury awards (December 2000). Fleeing police is not in itself sufficient to allow search (January 2000). No death penalty without considering mitigating evidence (April 2000). Can't lengthen prison sentences retroactively (March 2000). Life-sentence alternative should affect death sentence (June 2000).
Drugs. No tactile inspection by police for drugs (April 2000). No roadblocks with drug-sniffing dogs (November 2000).
Education. Disallow taxpayer funding for parochial school materials (June 2000).
Environment. Permissible to sue polluters for past pollution (January 2000). Extend Clean Water Act restrictions to isolated water bodies (January 2001).
Gun control. Congress can regulate guns in school under Commerce clause (January 1995).
Health care. Allow states to restrict cigarette ads beyond federal rules (June 2001).
Immigration. Six-month limit on detaining illegal immigrants (June 2001).
Jobs. Employers must get employee agreement for comp time rules (May 2000).
Unlike other justices, Ginsburg enjoys the opportunity to address the public. She delivers her views eloquently and with a deep sense of commitment. There is very little doubt that Ginsburg's position on women's rights, and civil liberties in general, will play an important role in many controversial issues to come.