Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The outpouring of emotional and heartfelt messages that have been made in the days following the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg illustrated the impact she had on those around her and the world she so greatly influenced. In attempting to honor her memory, asked attorneys from the credit and collection industry to share their recollections and thoughts on the judge who needed only three letters to be identified: RBG. Here are their unedited comments.

JUNE COLEMAN, MESSER STRICKLER: For the women of the ARM industry, we bow our heads in a moment of silence to honor the legacy of U.S. Supreme Court Judge Ruch Bader Ginsburg on her passing. She was the architect of the fight for women’s rights through the courts in the 1970s. Some of us women, and maybe most of us, take for granted perhaps the idea that if we work hard and excel, we will be able to find employment or be recognized for our successes. It is hard to imagine the top law student at Columbia law school, who was a member of the Columbia Law Review (as well as the Harvard Law Review before she transfers to Columbia), was not able to find a job, which is the reality that Ruth Bader Ginsburg lived in 1959. But regardless of your politics, if your mother or your sister or your wife or you have career opportunities that did not exist in 1960, especially if you are a woman attorney, you owe a nod to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She changed the world for American women. Until her first judicial appointment in 1980, Ginsburg led the fight in the courts for gender equality. When she began her groundbreaking legal fight, women were treated differently under the law from men. When she graduated from law school, there were many laws that restricted what women could do, that barred  them from jobs, rights and jury service. Prior to her judicial tenure, Ginsburg created a revolution for gender equality. And her dissent in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. case, which involved a woman with 19 years experience who was paid almost 30% less than some of her peers and more than 14% less than all of her peers, led to groundbreaking legislation to ease timeliness requirements on suits alleging unequal pay for equal work.  

She did not fit the picture of a gender equality warrior; she was physically diminutive and shy with a soft voice. But she was smart, thoughtful, tough and direct, framing gender equality in terms of equality for husbands and children in addition to women – a tireless champion of justice. Her difficulty finding a job as a woman did not start after her illustrious law school career. After graduating from college and prior to becoming a lawyer, and despite excelling at placement tests, she could only get a job as a typist, and lost that job when she became pregnant. After law school, she hid her second pregnancy to get reappointed to a teaching position at Rutgers, who paid her less than her male colleagues because she had a husband with a well-paying job. And then there are the stories of the many calls she received from her son’s school for what most would consider to be minor infractions. When RBG noted her son had two parents and asked the school to alternate calls between both parents, the calls grew infrequent, demonstrating more concern about when fathers should be called at work. It is hard to imagine those times, as I look over my past: being employed when I was pregnant with my child, balancing my career and law school with parenting my daughter, finding a job as a wife and a mother after graduating from law school.

Ginsburg has been recognized repeatedly for her intellect and her action that profoundly shaped human understanding and advanced gender equality. Colleague Antonin Scalia praised Ginsburg’s advocacy skills on behalf of gender equality, calling her the Thurgood Marshall for women’s rights. But her friendship with Antonin Scalia demonstrated one of her most important traits – her ability to listen and discuss issues with people with different opinions. So let us take this to heart as we pause for a moment to recognize the tangible benefits women – the women in all of our lives – have received due to Ginsburg’s fight for gender equality, indeed equal justice under the law applied to every single American. It is perhaps best to remember a comment she made:

“Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

BRIT SUTTELL, BARRON & NEWBURGER: I had to have a break from social media and e-mail over the weekend because I am so heartbroken – heartbroken about what this means for America and for my family. As a dyke married to another woman who is trying hard raise two young boys, I cannot help but be scared for what this means for our family and equal rights for both women and the greater queer community. Madame Justice was a huge influence in the legal field, especially as a female attorney at a time when there were not many women. Her work has allowed women to become more equal participants in America, but her work remains unfinished. We will persist.

VIRGINIA BELL FLYNN, TROUTMAN PEPPER: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a force to be reckoned with but it wasn’t because she was the loudest or the angriest. In fact, she was neither. She spoke with a quiet certainty that made the most frenetic voices still. 

Justice Ginsburg was a mother, a wife, a lawyer, a jurist, and most importantly, an inspiration for women and for anyone who has ever felt marginalized. “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” That was Justice Ginsburg. 

Her legacy and impact speaks volumes about the type of person she was and the types of lawyers we should all strive to be. May her death remind us to be zealous advocates for our clients and to fight in such a way that our adversaries can only complain about our success, and not our tactics. 

AYLIX JENSEN: MOSS & BARNETT: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a role model who paved the way for many women, including me. She was instrumental in changing the legal landscape for women in all walks of life, even before she was appointed to the United States Supreme Court. The constitutional challenges that she litigated opened doors for women in the workplace and secured the constitutional rights of women. She continued this important  work as a Justice of the Supreme Court. 

On Sept. 16, 2014, during my second year at the University of Minnesota Law School, I had the opportunity to attend a conversation between Justice Ginsburg and Professor Robert Stein. At the end of the conversation, a student asked Justice Ginsburg what advice she had for young women entering the legal profession. Justice Ginsburg responded, “Be as fired up as the students I had in the 70’s.” Justice Ginsburg’s enduring legacy will be  her courage and dedication to justice and equality.

JOANN NEEDLEMAN, CLARK HILL: As a jurist, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg brought the term ‘gender equality” into the vernacular of the American legal system. Her status as a cultural icon was so important at a time when there were, and still are, so few successful and smart women that young women can look up to and emulate. She showed so many women, including myself, that style, grace and kindness can still exist no matter how bitter the battle. Her relationship with Justice Scalia was the epitome of who she was: a warrior willing to break through barriers to get to the heart and truth of the matter. Her greatest quote, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.”

NICOLE STRICKLER, MESSER STRICKLER: Her fight in the area of women’s rights and gender equality was epic. As a female attorney, I’ve always admired her for it. I personally had the privilege of being sworn into the Supreme Court before her in 2017 and then watching her during subsequent oral argument. She was not only thoughtful but sharp, even in her later years. She leaves a hole on the Court that will be hard to fill. 

LESLIE BENDER: Justice Ginsburg, the feminist icon, brilliant jurist, and steadfast civil rights advocate made history in so many ways in her career that her influence has been felt by numerous generations and will be felt by generations to come. President Clinton had written of her when appointing her to the Supreme Court, that part of her incredible success was “her deep respect for others and her willingness to subvert self-interest to the interest of our people and their institutions.” Remarkably she was known for her “intellectual luminosity” which included an uncanny ability to listen to and evaluate all sides of an argument event those unpopular to her own. Her resilience and flawless compassion were reflected in the view she embraced of the Constitution as a means to assure equality and a common vision for all.

LORAINE LYONS, MALONE FROST MARTIN: Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an extraordinary jurist and advocate. She was a trailblazer for gender equality and an inspiration to generations of women and girls.

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One comment

  1. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an extraordinary person whose influence brought much needed attention to gender equality. She, no doubt, inspired generations of women and girls to expire generations of girls and boys.

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