The Life and Legacy of RBG.

AuthorBlum, Bill
PositionBOOKS - Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue

The U.S. Constitution vests enormous authority in the nine unelected individuals who sit on the Supreme Court. The) alone have the last word in defining and applying U.S. law.

Unfortunately, most Supreme Court Justices throughout our history have wielded their authority to maintain the social status quo on behalf of powerful private interests. This can be seen time and again in cases affirming the constitutionality of slavery (Dred Scott, 1857); the legality of racial segregation (Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896); the lawfulness of the death penalty (Gregg v. Georgia, 1976); the right of corporations and the rich to spend unlimited sums on elections (Citizens United, 2010); and gutting the Voting Rights Act (Shelby County v. Holder, 2013).

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September at age eighty-seven from complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer, was one of the great exceptions. The "Notorious RBG," as she became known in popular culture, devoted her life to the struggle for individual rights, with a special emphasis on gender equality.

The title of Ginsburg's final book, Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue, is fittingly taken from a passage in Deuteronomy that she had inscribed on a piece of artwork that hung in her Supreme Court chambers. Co-authored by Amanda L. Tyler, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of Ginsburg's former Supreme Court law clerks, the book was submitted for publication shortly before Ginsburg's death, and includes a eulogistic afterword written by Tyler.

At once a tribute and a mournful epitaph, the book consists of a collection of Ginsburg's speeches and interviews, as well as the transcripts from two of the oral arguments Ginsburg presented before the Supreme Court while she was a practicing attorney in the 1970s. It also includes four judicial opinions that Ginsburg wrote during her tenure on the Supreme Court. Only one is a majority opinion-a 7-1 ruling that overturned the male-only admissions policy at the Virginia Military Institute (United States v. Virginia, 1996). The other three are dissents:

Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (2007), which severely restricted the right of female workers to file pay equity lawsuits (this ruling was later overturned by the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009); Shelby County v. Holder (2013), which invalidated...

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