chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.

A Tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

(1933 - 2020)

As we celebrate the life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we are given the opportunity to reflect on her indelible legacy. 

A lawyer, professor, scholar, champion of civil rights, and esteemed jurist, Justice Ginsburg led this country on a historic path toward “Equal Justice Under Law.”  She exalted the Constitution of the United States as a shining paradigm for civics education, imploring that all persons be treated equally and insisting that “We the People” included all populations in our society.  She penned fierce dissents, demonstrating how the role of an individual jurist could be emboldened through consensus building on the long road to justice. And though her heart was most impassioned in articulating her demand for gender equality, she composed complex and enduring jurisprudence in such areas as civil procedure, education, disability rights, voting, healthcare, discrimination, and criminal law.  Throughout her storied career, Justice Ginsburg used her brilliant intellect and measured temperament to expand rights and protections that positively impacted the lives of all Americans.

As a woman of many firsts, she assured she would not be the last.  Justice Ginsburg fought tirelessly in her perseverance to defy notions that a devoted wife and mother could not equally excel as a prudent and scholarly legal mind. While she will be forever hailed as many things–American hero, fearless advocate, difference maker, and judicial luminary–she will be most affectionately remembered as the truly “Notorious RBG.”  We all have Justice Ginsburg to thank for many of the hopes and dreams made available to our daughters and granddaughters. 

The world grieves at the passing of such a remarkable jurist, and we are left wishing and wanting for even more from Justice Ginsburg. But in this year of the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment of Woman’s Suffrage, we will continue to celebrate her life and instill her legacy in future generations.   

May we honor and respect her.  May she rest in peace.

The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The Judicial Division is saddened by the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Members are encouraged to share memories, thoughts, and good wishes to be included on this tribute page by reaching out to the Judicial Division.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was a trailblazer, change-maker and inspired me to pursue a career in the Judiciary.  I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Justice Ginsberg in the spring of 1994 shortly after she was appointed to the US Supreme Court.  This opportunity presented itself to me as a third year law student as the Dean of our law school was friends with Justice Scalia.  Justice Ginsberg spoke to us for over an hour and her comments were motivation and inspiring to all of us. She continued to be a leader on the court and developed friendships will her colleagues regardless of their views. She taught all of us that hard-work, dedication, and professionalism can make anything possible in the law. Justice Ginsberg was a giant in the legal profession and we will all miss her greatly.  Condolences to her many law clerks and her family.

– Hon. Heather Welch
National Confernece of State Trial Judges

My memory of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is from the year that I was a U.S. Supreme Court Fellow. She spoke at our annual dinner, in part because it was the first Fellows cohort that was all women. She taught us about Belva Lockwood, the first woman to be admitted to the Supreme Court bar, and we learned of Justice Ginsburg’s admiration for Lockwood’s courage and pioneering spirit. Apparently Lockwood was also a suffragist, so I have been thinking about and thanking a lot of brilliant and committed women this month as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. As Justice Ginsburg said of Belva Lockwood, she was an inspiring “woman of sense and steel.”

– Monica A. Fennell
Lawyers Conference, 2020-2021 Chair

Here's the story of how I met Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the photo that goes with it.
It was December 1986. I was president of Hawaii Women Lawyers and also seven months pregnant with my first son, Justin.
Judge Ginsburg was in Honolulu and wanted to meet with women attorneys while she was here. So we quickly organized a reception for her on a Friday after work at the Blaisdell Hotel on Fort Street Mall. I waddled up to the hotel which was at the other end of the mall from my law office.
When I arrived, I was struck by how tiny Judge Ginsburg was. I wasn't particularly tall, but I was fairly rotund at the time. But in moments of speaking with her, I was struck by her intelligence, wit and warmth. She may have been tiny but she was a dynamo!
I was so fortunate to have met her. Little did I know that she would inspire me to become a judge just a few years later.

– Hon. Leslie A. Hayashi (Ret.)
National Conference of Specialized Court Judges

Left to right: The late Judge Betty Vitousek, Judge Leslie Hayashi (Ret.), Laura Crites (an advocate for women), and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Left to right: The late Judge Betty Vitousek, Judge Leslie Hayashi (Ret.), Laura Crites (an advocate for women), and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

I met and spoke with Justice Ginsburg on several occassions.  I am the former Chair of the Judicial Council of the Washington Bar Association.  Justice Ginsburg was kind enough to grace us with her presence before and during her time on the Supreme Court.  One of her keynote stories was about her close relationship with Justice Thurgood Marshall.  She occupied his office at the Supreme Court but had known him for years.  She was truly a champion for all the people. 

–  Hon. H. Alexander Manuel
National Conference of the Administrative Law Judiciary, 2020-2021 Chair

I have fond memories of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  In my role over the years in education I have been deeply inspired by Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  She has spoken at educational conferences emphasizing the need for students to focus on enhancing their reading and writing skills. From a sociological perspective, she has elevated women's role in society by serving as a role model.  I have had the pleasure of meeting her family - specifically her son and daughter in law who understand the profound meaning of doing good even in the midst of adversity.  RBG is an idol who will be in my heart forever. I wish her and her family the very best.  

 – Monica Koziol
Lawyers Conference
Council of Appellate Lawyers

Justice Ginsburg was a devoted member of the National Association of Women Judges, of which I had the privilege to be President for the year 2012-2013.  For the NAWJ 2013 Midyear meeting, Justice Ginsburg graciously arranged for us to have an event at the Supreme Court, a Forum on Challenges for Independence of Administrative and other Special Judges, followed by a reception, which was attended by both Chief Justice Roberts (also a member of NAWJ) and herself.  Within hours after Justice Ginsburg’s passing, our colleage ALJ Judge Erin Wirth sent me some photos of that event, with me standing by Justice Ginsburg while she addressed the attendees at the reception.      
The date was May 3, 2013.  The location was the conference room at the Supreme Court.
May her legacy live on in all of us!
A side note: After her remarks, while she mingled, Justice Ginsburg was enthusiastically swamped by the international judges present, who   were in town for the board meeting of the International Association of Women Judges.  We had timed our conferences to overlap.  What a testament to demonstrate that “notorious” RBG’s rock star status was a global, not merely a national, phenomenon.

–   Hon. Joan V. Churchill
National Conference of the Administrative Law Judiciary

Immigration Judge Joan Churchill, then NAWJ President, with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. May 3, 2013.

Immigration Judge Joan Churchill, then NAWJ President, with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. May 3, 2013.

I attended a retreat for ACLU Lawyers in Tarrytown NY in 1973 when I was in my twenties and the Justice, then Professor, Ginsberg was about 40.  She was then head of the ACLU Women's rights program.
As we walked the grounds of the retreat center, near a tennis court as I recall, she, elegant as ever, told a small group of us how to win a case in the conservative Burger Court.  She explained that you needed an issue where both men and women were harmed by a discriminatory provision.  The issue she discussed was social security survivors' payments.  Men got less because it was assumed they needed less.
As a result, the man lost out because as a widower he did not collect as much as a woman based on her social security contributions.  The woman also lost because her contributions did not result in the same level of survivors' benefits that a man's contributions would.  The case was. Weinberger v. Weisenfeld, which she won two years later in a unanimous decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.  View the online summary for the case.

Hon. Peter Buchsbaum
National Conference of State Trial Judges

Introduction of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1999 When She Became the First Woman Honored with the ABA Thurgood Marshall Award, by Her Student, Friend and Nominator, Lynn Hecht Schafran

Beginning in 1972, Justice Ginsburg was my teacher, my mentor and my friend. In l999 I nominated her for the ABA Thurgood Marshall Award, and she became the first woman so honored. Here is my award ceremony introduction to Justice Ginsburg and a link to the C-Span video of that introduction and Justice Ginsburg’s speech, focused on her deep admiration for Justice Marshall and his impact on her own work.

Lynn Hecht Schafran
Lawyers Confernece
Legal Director and Director of the National Judicial Education Program to Promote Equality for Women and Men in the Courts at Legal Momentum

In 2012, the ABA leadership asked me to chair a task force on the future of legal education.   When we issued our report in 2014,  I sent a copy of the report to each of the Justices, with a cover letter that explained our work.  I signed the letter in a rather ordinary way, like “truly yours” and giving my name and showing “Chief Justice of Indiana (1987-2012)”.  In my copy to Justice Ginsburg, I hand-wrote something I thought she’d enjoy knowing:  that the Chief Justice of Indiana’s Supreme Court, the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, and the Chief Judge of the Tax Court were all women.
The letter came flying back from Washington.   Justice Ginsburg had written on it:   “You’re too young to retire!”
The country was certainly fortunate that she so committed herself to public service.

Hon. Randall T. Shepard
Chief Justice of Indiana (Ret.)
c/o Indiana Court of Appeals
Appellate Judges Conference