As part of Suffolk Law School's conference "Globalization and the U.S. Law School," the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, gave a lecture entitled "One Woman's International Experience in Law: From Columbia to the Supreme Court by Way of Sweden." Following are some excerpts from Justice Ginsburg's presentation:
"I have been a judge now for some 26 years, and I appreciate the value of good academic commentary. Benjamin Nathan Cardozo expressed the point best when he said, 'The judge goes up on the bench and sees before him a list of names and numbers-one case follows another.' More and more, we are driven to rely on the work of a legal scholar, and it is not to be expected that overnight and at the call of a single case we should do the work scholars have been doing in lifetimes of devoted and intensive effort..
If the Constitution is to remain alive and instructive today, it has to be interpreted in terms of conditions as they exist-now and not yesterday. My example is the Fourteenth Amendment, which became part of the Constitution in 1868. Now, suppose you were to ask a jurist in the United States, 'Do men and women have equal statute before the law?' If you were to give that answer in terms of 1868, you would say, 'Of course not-women are not part of the political community; they have no right to vote..' Does that mean that today judges should interpret those same words to 'We the people' were once white, property- owning men. But now 'we the people' encompasses a much greater group..
I don't like being all alone in the court.. It was great to have Sandra [Day O'Connor] as my colleague because obviously we are both women and we are both feminists. We speak differently, we have very different backgrounds, we were divided on a lot of important questions, but we both had the experience of growing up women.. It was good for the public to see that women come in all sizes and shapes, just as men do, and that they don't necessarily look alike or think alike but have a certain sympathy for each other..
One thing we should all understand is that the court, unlike the political branches of government, does not set its own agenda. We don't decide this is the year we will fix age discrimination. We respond to what's out there; we don't reach out and say we think Congress needs to be taught a lesson about some bad law that they passed."
ALUMNI PROFILESLance D. Clarke