Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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Ginsburg, Ruth Bader,

1933–2020, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1993–2020), b. Brooklyn, N.Y., as Joan Ruth Bader. A graduate (1954) of Cornell, she attended Harvard Law School, then transferred to Columbia Law School, graduating in 1959. She clerked in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, taught at Rutgers Law School (1963–72), and became (1972) the first woman tenured professor at Columbia. During the 1970s, as general counsel for the American Civil Liberties UnionAmerican Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU), nonpartisan organization devoted to the preservation and extension of the basic rights set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Founded (1920) by such prominent figures as Jane Addams, Helen Keller, Judah Magnus, and Norman Thomas, the ACLU grew
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's Women's Rights Project, she argued a series of cases focused on discrimination against men before the Supreme Court that strengthened constitutional safeguards of gender equality; she has been called the "Thurgood MarshallMarshall, Thurgood,
1908–93, U.S. lawyer and associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1967–91), b. Baltimore. He received his law degree from Howard Univ. in 1933. In 1936 he joined the legal staff of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
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 of women's rights." In 1980 President Carter appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, where she displayed a belief in judicial restraint and took a position between sharply defined liberal and conservative factions. Nominated to the Supreme Court by President Clinton in 1993 to replace Byron WhiteWhite, Byron Raymond,
1917–2002, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1962–93), b. Fort Collins, Colo. An All-America football player nicknamed "Whizzer" who later starred as a professional, White was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa at the Univ.
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, Ginsburg continued to act as a centrist, generally eschewing judicial activism and advocating that social change arise legislation rather than court decisions. As the court moved toward the right in the 21st cent., she was increasingly identified as a member of its liberal wing and became noted for her pointed dissents. Her most prominent decision as a justice was her majority opinion in United States v. Virginia, in which the court held that the Virginia Military Institute could not deny admission to qualified women.


See her My Own Words (2016, with M. Harnett and W. W. Williams); biography by J. S. De Hart (2018); I. Carmon and S. Knizhnik, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (2015); L. Hirshman, Sisters In Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World (2015); B. West and J. Cohen, dir. RBG (documentary, 2018).

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Ginsburg, Ruth Bader

(1933–  ) Supreme Court justice; born in New York City. She studied law at Harvard and earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School (1959). She taught at Rutgers University Law School (1963–72) and Columbia University Law School (1972–80). She was a circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. (1980–93). She led the Women's Rights Project while at Columbia and she won several important cases before the Supreme Court during the 1970s. Nominated and confirmed as a justice of the Supreme Court (1993), she was the second woman (after Sandra Day O'Connor) to sit on the nation's highest bench.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.