Friday, July 10, 2009

Interview: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

As the Sonia Sotomayor hearings for the Supreme Court kick into high gear next week, school yourself for a moment on the importance of her nomination with this interview of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg discusses everything from life on the court, to the role of women in the legal profession, to her vision of the court and constitution in the 21st century. Here are a few highlights.

Once Justice O’Connor was questioning counsel at oral argument. I thought she was done, so I asked a question, and Sandra said: Just a minute, I’m not finished. So I apologized to her and she said, It’s O.K., Ruth. The guys do it to each other all the time, they step on each other’s questions. And then there appeared an item in USA Today, and the headline was something like“Rude Ruth Interrupts Sandra.”

The notion that Sonia [Sotomayor] is an aggressive questioner — what else is new? Has anybody watched Scalia or Breyer up on the bench?

I never would have gotten that invitation from Columbia [Law School] without the push from the Nixon administration. I understand that there is a thought that people will point to the affirmative-action baby and say she couldn’t have made it if she were judged solely on the merits. But when I got to Columbia I was well regarded by my colleagues even though they certainly disagreed with many of the positions that I was taking. They backed me up: If that’s what I thought, I should be able to speak my mind.
On abortion, I thought this exchange was particularly insightful.

Q: Since we are talking about abortion, I want to ask you about Gonzales v. Carhart, the case in which the court upheld a law banning so-called partial-birth abortion. Justice Kennedy in his opinion for the majority characterized women as regretting the choice to have an abortion, and then talked about how they need to be shielded from knowing the specifics of what they’d done. You wrote, “This way of thinking reflects ancient notions about women’s place in the family and under the Constitution.” I wondered if this was an example of the court not quite making the turn to seeing women as fully autonomous.

JUSTICE GINSBURG: The poor little woman, to regret the choice that she made. Unfortunately there is something of that in Roe. It’s not about the women alone. It’s the women in consultation with her doctor. So the view you get is the tall doctor and the little woman who needs him.

Reproductive choice has to be straightened out. There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. That just seems to me so obvious. The states that had changed their abortion laws before Roe [to make abortion legal] are not going to change back. So we have a policy that affects only poor women, and it can never be otherwise, and I don’t know why this hasn’t been said more often.
Lots of humorous comments too, especially this one:
I don’t know how many times I’ve kicked off my shoes. Including the time some reporter said something like, it took me a long time to get up from the bench. They worried, was I frail [from cancer]? To be truthful I had kicked off my shoes, and I couldn’t find my right shoe; it traveled way underneath.
Read the entire interview if you get a chance. Related posts.

No comments: