Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested July 2 that had she landed a law firm job after law school, she might not be where she is today: a justice on the nation’s highest court.
Ginsburg, in a discussion at Georgetown University Law Center, said despite graduating at the top of her class at Columbia Law School, she had difficulty finding work.
“Because we didn’t have that route to travel we had to find another way,” Ginsburg said of her and retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s career paths.
Her experience clerking for two years on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York meant she could’ve landed a firm job afterwards had she wanted to, she said. But she said the clerkship led to her entry into academia and subsequent successes.
Ginsburg, discussing her late husband Martin “Marty” Ginsburg, said she was lucky to have met such a forward-thinking man at a time when gender roles were so heavily enforced.
She said while many men at that time would’ve been jealous of their wife’s success, her husband was overwhelmingly supportive.
“He never regarded me as any kind of a threat,” Ginsburg said. “He was always my biggest booster.”
She said when her husband was working to make partner at his firm, she took on the bulk of domestic work, and when she dove into advocate work in the late 1960s, he took on a larger share.
Ginsburg said while the last 50 years have been marked by legal progress in curbing explicit gender-based discrimination, society should work in the next half-century to eliminate “unconscious” gender bias.
Ginsburg during the panel commended Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the newest member of the court, for hiring exclusively female law clerks. This is the first year the Supreme Court has had more female clerks than male clerks, she said.
She also said the justices take great care to consider the Supreme Court’s role in the overall legal system.
“No matter where we are on the political spectrum, the one thing that each of us feels deeply is we want to leave that institution in as good a shape as we found it,” Ginsburg said. “We do not want to do anything to tarnish the court’s reputation.”
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