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Monday, September 09, 2013
Courts - Go back in time and listen to women's rights advocate Ruth Bader Ginsburg arguing before the SCOTUS in the 1970s [Updated]
On Friday, September 6, 2013 the National Constitution Center presented "An Evening with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg," billed as "a wide-ranging conversation with the National Constitution Center’s new President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen."
Although the program was simulcast, unfortunately there currently is no on-demand version,. However, the National Constitution Center website promises one shortly. I'll add the link when it does become available. [Update - C-SPAN has the entire 90-minute interview, here.]
I was fortunate to catch the last part of the simulcast Friday evening, where Justice Ginsburg discussed at length some of the groundbreaking cases she had taken to the Supreme Court.
As I listened to Justice Ginsburg, with her unique, very slow and measured speaking style, I wondered what she had sounded like as an advocate before the SCOTUS in the 1970s.
First, what were some of her cases? This section from the Wikipedia entry discusses some of Justice Ginsburg's landmark cases:
In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women's Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and, in 1973, she became the ACLU's General Counsel. As the chief litigator for the Women's Rights Project, she briefed and argued several landmark cases in front of the Supreme Court, such as Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971), wherein the Court extended the protections of the Equal Protection Clause to women for the first time. She also argued Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677 (1973) and Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, 420 U.S. 636 (1975), which supported the ultimate development and application of the intermediate scrutiny Equal Protection standard of review for legal classifications based on sex. She attained a reputation as a skilled oral advocate, and her work directly led to the end of gender discrimination in many areas of the law.The good news, as I quickly confirmed, is one can actually listen to Justice Ginsberg making these oral arguments, via Oyez.org. Here are the links:
Her last case as a lawyer before the Court was 1978's Duren v. Missouri, which challenged laws and practices making jury duty voluntary for women in that state. Ginsburg viewed optional jury duty as a message that women's service was unnecessary to important government functions.
- Reed v. Reed (1971) [ILB: despite the Wikipedia entry, Ginsburg did not participate in the oral argument of this case]
- Frontiero v. Richardson (1973) [ILB: Ginsburg, as amicus, begins speaking at 17:15 and continues until 28:11, without, unlike today's Court, any interruption!]
- Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld (1975) [ILB: Ginsburg's argument begins at 23:15 and continues uninterrupted until 37:37, when Justice Steward asks a few questions. A back and forth with CJ Burger begins around 42:00.]
- Duren v. Missouri (1978) [ILB: The case involved a solely sex-based exemption from jury duty for women. Ginsburg's argument begins at about 13:22 and continues to about 25:00. This is by far Ginsburg's strongest voice. CJ Burger's questioning begins almost immediately. Justice Stevens also asks questions. Later, several other justices ask a question or two, but there is nothing approaching the constant questioning of today's justices.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 9, 2013 08:26 AM
Posted to Courts in general