Women’s rights advocate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg is the subject of the “Notorious RBG” meme. She carries an “I- Dissent” tote and can be seen reading with a penlight during movies. Her favorite subject is equality in the law, and she enjoys speaking about the law and her experience to university audiences.
She has survived four bouts with cancer beginning in 1999. Yet, she looks healthy and enthusiastic about procedural questions. In an in-depth interview with CNN, she flew past some of her favorite discussions.
She enjoys civil procedure and was inspired during her first year at Harvard by the late law professor Benjamin Kaplan:
‘Tort, contract, property — there was some familiarity with it. Procedure was this strange area.’
Ginsburg was excited by civil procedure and made a point of volunteering when she was in his class as often as she could:
‘Kaplan was a master of the Socratic metho. He never used it to wound. He used it to make the class engaging.’
RPG transferred to Columbia University to accompany her husband. In 1959, she graduated and started teaching civil procedures, even traveled to Sweden to study its system:
‘Reading and observing another system made me understand my own system so much better.’
Ginsburg relayed how she responded about a city/state issue:
‘The city has now been blocked by a state law. The state says: City, thou shalt not enforce the regulations. So what’s left of this case?’
In December, she heard that the National Rifle Associate had already won. She said:
‘The (challengers) have gotten all the relief that they sought. They can carry a gun to a second home. They can carry it to a fire — to a practice range out of state.’
Attorney Sarah Schrup represented a convicted murderer and was challenging Kansas’ elimination of the insanity defense. Ginsburg told her:
‘The Kansas Supreme Court didn’t reach that question, so you are asking us to decide it as a matter of first impression.’
Schrup argued that Kansas law violated the 14th Amendment, which guaranteed people due process. After the justice’s question, the attorney shifted to the 8th Amendment, which protects people against cruel and unusual punishment. The attorney said:
‘We believe that this issue is presented. if you want supplemental briefing, we’ll provide it.’
Ginsburg asked one attorney to hold on. How could the Supreme Court Justices check the validity of a rule after the government had already abandoned it:
“‘Why should we take up Bob Richards at all in this case? Because both sides agree that that’s not what should be dispositive. The question presented, it seems, has now vanished from the case.’
When, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that the justices were especially spirited in their discussion over how they should review a rule that could be irrelevant? He said:
‘I’m getting wheezy with this back and forth.’
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