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Supreme Court Justices

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933- )

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York on March 15, 1933. She is the younger of two children born to Nathan and Celia (Amster) Bader. Her older sister died when Ruth was a young child. Ginsburg attended Cornell University after graduating high school, and finished first in her class. She then married her husband Martin, who had also graduated from Cornell. After he completed his military service obligation, Martin returned to Harvard Law School, where he had completed one year. Ruth also entered Harvard Law School then. Women were few in number at Harvard in the mid-1950s, and instructors occasionally took delight in applying the "Socratic" method to the female members of the class. Ruth became a member of the Harvard Law Review at a time when only those with excellent grades were invited to join the Review. Martin, a year ahead of Ruth, took a job with a law firm in New York. Ruth transferred to Columbia Law School, and was invited to join the Columbia Law Review, making her the only (as far as I can tell) person to be a member of two prestigious law reviews as a student.

After graduating from Columbia in 1959, Ruth was a law clerk to a federal district judge and a research associate at Columbia before becoming a professor at Rutgers (Newark) Law School in 1963. At this time, she began working on so-called sex discrimination cases. In 1972, she returned to her alma mater, becoming the first full professor at Columbia Law School, and she continued to argue gender discrimination cases, in the Supreme Court and in lower courts. In 1980, Ginsburg was nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by President Jimmy Carter. She remained on the court of appeals for thirteen years.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated Ginsburg to replace the retiring Byron White. She was the second woman appointed to the Court (Sandra Day O'Connor was the first), and the first Jewish Justice to be appointed since the resignation of Abe Fortas in 1969.

As a Justice, Ginsburg has created something akin to strict scrutiny in gender discrimination cases in which women are treated differently than men (United States v. Virginia, 1996). In establishment clause cases, she has revived the argument of "separationism."

Ginsburg married her husband Martin, a well known tax lawyer and professor, in 1954. They have two children, one of whom is a law professor at Columbia.