The Notorious R.B.G

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Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy is shaped by years of dedication to education and politics. Born in 1933 in Brooklyn, New York, RBG became the second-ever female justice after teaching at Rutgers University Law School and Columbia University. In addition to these teaching credentials, Ginsburg served as the director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union during the 1970s and was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1980. The sharp, well-spoken woman we all came to know passed away due to complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer on Sept. 18, 2020.  

Born to a low-income family, Ginsburg excelled in her studies at James Madison High School. Despite her mother’s lack of college education, her dedication to work inspired her throughout her studies. Her mother battled cancer while Ginsburg was in high school and died the night before her graduation. She graduated from Cornell University in 1954 and was first in her class. After her husband was drafted and fulfilled two years of military service, she and Martin Ginsburg returned to Harvard University to study law. At Harvard, she faced ongoing criticism from her peers and professors who said she was taking the spot of a more qualified male.

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With only eight other women in her class of 500, Ginsburg went on to succeed while balancing motherhood and her studies. She went on to become the first female member of the Harvard Law Review.

Despite her credentials, she continued to face gender discrimination while serving as the director for the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), for which she argued six landmark cases on gender equality before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Landmark Cases

Throughout her career, she voted on several cases tied to social issues and gender inequality. In 2007, the court heard a case from Lilly Ledbetter from a Goodyear Tire plant in Alabama concerning equal pay to her male colleagues. A majority of the court ruled that Ledbetter had filed her claims too late, which did not sit right with Ginsburg. In 2009 she wrote to Congress urging them to take up the issue.

After the Voting Rights Act was struck down in 2013, she wrote an angry dissent to show her disappointment in the court.

“The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective,” said Ginsburg.

In 2015, Ginsburg led the liberal block of the court to vote in favor of same-sex marriage.

Across multiple cases, RBG fought to protect a woman’s right to choose how to proceed with varying levels of abortions.

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The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is considered to be the highest law in the land. According to their website, “As the final arbiter of the law, the Court is charged with ensuring the American people the promise of equal justice under law and, thereby, also functions as guardian and interpreter of the Constitution.” A Supreme Court justice is nominated by the president when a vacancy occurs, which is then confirmed or denied by a Senate vote. This ensures a partnership between the executive and legislative branches.

The Constitution doesn’t actually specify any qualifications for justices in regard to age, education, profession or native-born citizenship like it does for the presidency. There is no requirement to be a lawyer or law school graduate, but all are trained in law. A nomination to serve on the Supreme Court is one for life, but justices can be impeached for “poor behavior.” Nine justices serve in a full Supreme Court.

The Court gets about 7,000-8,000 petitions for a writ of certiorari each term. The Court grants and hears oral argument in about 80 cases.

What RBG’s Vacancy Means

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat opening up means a few things. First, President Donald Trump has announced his pick which will move to a vote before the Senate. He has nominated Amy Coney Barrett, a favorite among conservatives. President Trump is eagerly pushing his nomination in the hope to get her confirmed before election day, which would drastically impact the balance of the Supreme Court for years.

If Trump is able to confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court before the next election, it will secure a large number of votes among conservative voters and current supporters.

His nomination comes as a stark contrast to Ginsburg. Judge Barrett, a conservative and a hero to the anti-abortion movement, if confirmed will most likely make plans to combat Roe v. Wade, and other cases like the Affordable Care Act. If confirmed, Judge Barrett would become the 115th justice in the nation’s history and the fifth woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court. 

However you plan to vote this election, VALLEY encourages you to check with your state’s registration deadlines and instructions. https://www.vote.org/voter-registration-deadlines/

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Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

*Please note that this process is ongoing and this article was published with the most current information at the time*

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