Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
March 15, 1933 – September 18, 2020
On the wall next to the door to my home office is a photograph of the Justices of the U. S. Supreme Court. Seated in the front row are Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Standing in the back row are Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice David Souter, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, and Associate Justice Stephen Breyer.
The photo includes a handwritten message from Justice Ginsburg, “To Mike Berman with every good wish for our ‘coach’”. It is signed by Justices Ginsburg, Souter, Thomas, and Breyer.
The first person whom I helped prepare for his Senate confirmation hearing in 1990 was David Souter. Souter was a friend of my partner Ken Duberstein. I had done a fair amount of work in preparing people for congressional hearings and Ken asked if I would help Souter, which I did. Subsequently, I was asked to help with the preparation in 1991of Clarence Thomas by a lawyer friend who was leading his confirmation preparation.
On June 15, 1993, President Bill Clinton announced that he was nominating then D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. My friend Howard Paster was head of congressional relations for the White House and asked me to assist with Ginsburg’s preparation. I agreed and began to prepare.
I then got a call from Howard (or someone in his office) asking me to have lunch with Marty Ginsburg, Judge Ginsburg’s husband. Early in our lunch it became clear that Marty Ginsburg, a prominent tax lawyer who also taught tax at Georgetown University Law School, was there to determine whether Judge Ginsburg would permit me to be part of her confirmation team. Over a two-hour lunch, and having learned that we were both cooks, Marty agreed that I could join the team and help Judge Ginsberg.
When I first met Judge Ginsburg in her chambers, my first reaction was that she was particularly self-effacing and spoke very softly. I made a note that I would have to get her to speak up.
Preparations began on June 22nd for the Senate Judiciary Hearings. We scheduled a series of mock hearings on July 14, 16 and 17. At our first practice hearing I quickly realized that I would not, in fact, have to encourage her to speak up. It was like someone threw a switch.
Senate Judiciary hearings were held on July 20-23, 1993. On the first day Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave an opening statement in which she included the following, “Indeed, in my lifetime, I expect to see three, four or perhaps even more women on the High Court Bench, women not shaped from the same mold, but of different complexion.” At the time she died three women served on the High Court Bench. [Full text – Wash Post 9/20/20]
During the confirmation hearings, we had a lunch break each day. A large room had been set aside near the hearing room for our group. On the last day of hearings, about a half hour before the hearing would re-start, I asked everyone to leave the room so Ruth and Marty could have a little time to themselves. About a half hour later I entered the room to tell them the hearing was about to start.
I saw two people sitting together, holding hands, clearly expressing their love for each other.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was confirmed by the United States Senate on August 3, 1993 by a vote of 93-6. She took the oath of office on August 10, 1993.
According to a Jewish tradition, a person who dies on Rosh Hashanah, is a “tzaddik”, a person of great righteousness. And she was. [WW]
Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the first woman to lie in state in the U.S. Supreme Court and the first woman to lie in state in the U.S. Capital. Ginsburg is also the first Jewish person to lie in state in the U.S. Capital. In U.S. History, only 33 people–all of them men–have lain in State in the Capital.
Select Quotes from Justice Ginsburg
“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”
“When I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] and I say, When they are nine, people are shocked, But there’s been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about it.”
“I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”
“Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
“Yet what greater defeat could we suffer than to come to resemble the forces we oppose in their disrespect for human dignity.”
“You can disagree without being disagreeable.”
“Women will have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.”
“A gender line…helps to keep women not on a pedestal, but in a cage.”
“I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability.”