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Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Legal Rock Star

February 3, 2013

“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, offering the Women and Law Conference attendees a matter of fact opinion about her thoughts on the Court having a second chance at the Citizens United case famously bestowing the same First Amendment rights of people on corporate entities.

The Justice’s candor was unexpected but very refreshing for the crowed gathered for Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s thirteenth annual conference titled Her Honor: Women in the Judiciary.

During her Q and A time with us, Justice Ginsburg shared many incredible stories, including the fact that she credits former President Jimmy Carter for changing the face of the American judicial system by adding more women than any president in history to the judiciary.

By 1981, when President Carter left office he had appointed 81 women to judicial positions across the U.S.   In comparison, President Obama has made 98 appointments so far, and about 46 have been women. 

In regards to being one of the first women appointed to the highest court in America, Justice Ginsburg reminisced.  She shared a story about The National Association of Women Judges holding a luncheon to honor Justice Ginsburg and Justice O’Connor.

The group presented each woman with a t-shirt. “Mine read, I’m not Sandra, and hers said I’m not Ruth.  With three (women on the bench) we look like we’re here to stay, not a one time curiosity,” Ginsburg said.

Ginsburg’s yearning for equality was evident when she responded to a question addressing something she would like to see changed.  “The ERA,” she said.  “I hope it becomes a part of the Constitution.  Even the most female oppressive countries have this type of amendment.”

Ginsburg was sharp and witty.  Her advice was sage and meaningful.  “Finding a partner who is your biggest booster helped me achieve a family-work balance, ” she advised, referring to her husband and partner of fifty-six years, Martin Ginsburg.

It’s evident Justice Ginsburg has more to do as a Supreme Court Justice.  “I will do my job as long as I am able.  I’m not going to write any book,” she said after being asked about what she has been most proud of.

Ginsburg made it clear her dissent matters.  She discussed cases she did not agree with and opined that the court will have another chance to “get it right” in these instances.  The Justice explained how writing a dissent, looking forward, is important.  She said she knows there will be a time when her colleagues will have a chance to fix things.

Of course, as students we are always searching for advice, and Justice Ginsburg did not disappoint.  First, she told the audience that she never asks herself what she would do differently.

She said the best piece of advice she ever received was from a co-worker.  “Do your best job in each case, but when it’s over don’t look back, go on and give it your all.”

She added that her mother gave her advice she still abides by today.  “Be a lady, don’t allow distractions.  Anger gets you nowhere, and jealousy is even worse.  I just look at what’s on my plate today.”