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Public Employee Press: PEP Talk

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: An unequaled dissenter


Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Sept. 18, at 87, just more than six weeks before the Nov. 3 Presidential election.

“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” Justice Ginsburg dictated shortly before her death.

During her tenure as a champion in black robes, she distinguished herself as an “architect of a legal strategy to bring cases to the courts that would ensure the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection” under the law for both women and men.

President Bill Clinton in 1993 appointed Ruth Ginsburg to the historically conservative U.S. Supreme Court, where she was only the second woman to serve on the highest court in America.

Like no other, Justice Ginsburg shook up the conservative judicial system and often authored dissenting opinions that would shape future policies for a more liberal, equal, and just American society.

Justice Ginsburg kept the power elite on the ropes by challenging the policies and laws that favor keeping power in the hands of the powerful.

She cast votes in support of gender equality, abortion rights, same sex marriage, and was an ardent proponent of the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and supporter of the 2010 Affordable Care Act President Barak Obama signed into law.

In 2017, President Donald Trump suspended the pay equity law and has tried repeatedly to revoke Obamacare, while offering no viable alternative healthcare plan. He also has disregarded Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish, seizing the chance to name a SCOTUS replacement before the general election.

“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Most of all, Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent her career not only defending the Constitution, but was an unshakable champion of civil rights and the freedom to join a union. In the 2018 Janus v AFSCME Supreme Court case, Justice Ginsburg dissented, throwing her support behind unions to collect agency fees to help pay for collective bargaining from workers who choose not to join the union but are covered by the bargaining unit.

Bias was a familiar and frequent obstacle in Ruth Ginsburg’s life. As the top student at Harvard and Columbia law schools, upon graduating, Ginsburg couldn’t get hired by any law firm.

Undeterred, Ginsburg left a legal legacy grounded in her work as a litigator with the American Civil Liberties Union. During the 1970s, she won groundbreaking sex-discrimination cases that challenged inherently biased laws.

She made the good trouble the late U.S. Senator John Lewis encouraged.

Any woman who owns property, has a credit card, is admitted to traditionally male-dominated anything — whether a job, a university program or profession — has to give credit to the Notorious RBG. Ginsburg earned the moniker coined from rapper Notorious BIG, Biggie Smalls, from Tumblr as she became a feminist icon and pop culture phenom.

In 2016, Justice Ginsberg said she was “inappropriately dismissive and harsh” when she criticized Colin Kaepernick for refusing to stand for the national anthem. She called President Donald Trump a “faker.” She later apologized for both remarks.

A feminist and scholar, Ginsburg’s strategic legal efforts to effect gender equality and pay equity has helped millions of women move from the typing pool to the board room. She is a role model and icon who opened up opportunities for women to enjoy broader and more diverse career options.

Justice Ginsburg lay in state at the Capitol in Washington D.C. for three days. She is the first woman and first Jewish person to receive that honor.