That’s Justice Ginsburg to the Rest of Us

 You may have heard there is a movie out now about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Well I (this is Christine again – which means that I did not get fired for that Pooperintendent piece two weeks ago – more on that tomorrow) am going to see the RBG movie later this week and I thought it might be fun to get up to speed on Justice Ginsburg and review some of her opinions.

 A little background:  Justice Ginsburg is 85, graduated first in her class at Columbia Law School in 1959, taught at both Rutgers and Columbia University law schools and became the first female professor at Columbia to earn tenure.  She was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1980 and served there until her appointment to the Supreme Court in 1993.  Since then, Justice Ginsburg has purportedly never missed a day of oral arguments, not even when undergoing chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer.  So basically, she’s a vampire.  A wicked smart vampire.

Also this:  Justice Ginsburg first started law school at Harvard, where her husband Martin was also enrolled after completing two years of service in the U.S. Army.  During Justice Ginsburg’s first year of law school, Martin Ginsburg was diagnosed with testicular cancer, undergoing surgery and radiation.  Justice Ginsburg cared for her sick husband, her two-year old daughter, and was the first woman accepted to the Harvard Law Review.  When her husband graduated and moved to New York City to work at a law firm, only then did she transfer to Columbia, make law review there, and graduate first in her class.  This is staggering.  She might even be a werewolf.  She’s terrifying.

Apropos of the last week or so of school in which we all get a little crazy, I commend to your attention Justice Ginsburg’s opinion in Safford Unified School District No. 1 v. Redding. This 2009 case is itself somewhat notorious: it is the strip search case in which an assistant principal directed his assistant to take a 13-year old girl to the nurse’s office where she was required to strip down to her underwear and stretch out her bra and panties, so they could check and see if she was concealing ibuprofen.  Mistakes were made.  The Court majority held that the search violated Miss Redding’s Fourth Amendment rights, but held that the school employees who had been sued individually were protected by qualified immunity because clearly established law did not show that the search violated the Fourth Amendment – essentially that lower court opinions on school strip searches were not consistent enough for this to be something the school employees should have known better than to do.

Justice Ginsburg concurred with the majority opinion that the search was unconstitutional, but she dissented as to the issue of qualified immunity, arguing that the law on student searches was clearly established and the facts of the Safford case were so extraordinary that the assistant principal who ordered the search should have been held individually liable.  I told you she was scary.


 Tomorrow:  First Amendment Rights in the Workplace