To honor Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s twenty years of service on the United States Supreme Court so far, Harvard Law School planned a celebration and many individual faculty members wrote reflections on some of her opinions. Those reflections are assembled here along with our community’s heartfelt admiration and appreciation. Very few individuals in history come close to the extraordinary and significant role played by Justice Ginsburg in the pursuit of justice before she joined the bench. Her work earned her a faculty post at Rutgers School of Law and then the first tenured post for a female professor at Columbia Law School. As director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, she argued six landmark cases on gender equality before the U.S. Supreme Court and crafted successful challenges to the system of legally enforced gender roles that limited opportunities for both women and men. With vision and brilliance, she earned a place in the history books and on the honor roll of civil rights heroes.
Both as judge on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, she has produced a body of superbly crafted opinions and nurtured a quality of collegiality that represents an equally significant contribution to the administration of justice. And there is more to come.
It is a special privilege and honor for me, as the second woman to serve as Dean, to salute Justice Ginsburg at Harvard Law School. When she was a student here, she faced a class of over 500 men and only seven other women. She juggled her roles as a wife and mother with her work as a law student and faced a Dean who chided female students for taking the places of qualified males. She excelled. She joined the Harvard Law Review. When her husband, fellow law student Martin Ginsburg, had to deal with cancer, she took notes for him and helped him recover. And when the Harvard Dean refused her request to earn her degree while moving to New York with her family and completing her final year of schooling at Columbia Law School, she transferred there and promptly rose to the top of the class. She gently but rightly resisted the requests of later Harvard Law School Deans to accept a tardy degree from Harvard Law School but finally, in 2011, received a Harvard degree – an honorary doctorate, the university’s highest academic honor. It is with joy that we offer these reflections on some of her judicial work.