Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Professor Ruth Bader Ginsburg of Rutgers Law School

Vision, clarity, and generosity

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

A treatise on Swedish civil procedure, a law school textbook, a new journal for law student writers—such accomplishments might seem important only in the cloistered world of law professors. In fact, they were some of the first ways that Ruth Bader Ginsburg began to change the law.

As a law professor, Ginsburg led the creation of the field of women's studies in law. Her first step in doing so took her to Sweden.

She graduated from Columbia Law School, first in her class, in 1959. After she clerked for a federal district judge, she was hired by Columbia for an international law project. In conjunction with a Swedish scholar, she wrote "Civil Procedure in Sweden," published in 1965 by a Dutch academic press (Martinus Nijhoff). To study Swedish law, Ginsburg learned Swedish.

One reviewer, in the Kentucky Law Journal (pdf), found the book "so well written that it makes not only profitable, instructive, at times even revealing reading, but … also interesting. Certainly, one does not expect this kind of book in the field of civil procedure." Other reviewers liked the Swedish book, too, and it's still cited by courts and scholars today.

As part of the research, professor Ginsburg traveled to Sweden. There, she was inspired to see that 20 to 25 percent of law students were women.

While the Swedish book was in progress, she was hired by Rutgers Law School in 1963 to teach civil procedure. As a scholar, judge, and justice, she would become renowned for the clarity of her explanations of complex questions in civil procedure.

The law school tenure standard of the time was writing two law review articles. Hers, both on civil procedure, appeared in the Harvard and Columbia law reviews.

A Needed Textbook

Professor Ginsburg's second book aimed to do more than make Swedish law accessible to English-reading scholars. The new book would make women's rights accessible to law professors, law students, and lawyers.

What law students learn depends on what professors can teach. Teaching depends on what textbooks exist. Although some professors do collect or write their own materials for class, most of what gets taught in law school is from textbooks. Only if a textbook on women's rights existed could women's rights be broadly studied in law school.

By 1971 there were professors who sympathized with women's rights, but were far from expert on the subject. They could teach it only if someone else wrote a textbook. They had neither the time nor inclination to determine which cases and materials were most important, collect and edit them, and then organize them into an orderly narrative. So Ginsburg did it all for them. She also provided her own analysis.

Ginsburg's "Materials on Sex-based Discrimination and the Law" was published in 1971. The front matter describes it as a "preliminary draft." Another version was titled "Constitutional Aspects of Sex Discrimination." The textbook wasn't lengthy—a hundred pages and change. She used it for her brand-new Rutgers seminar on women's rights.

While the book by itself wasn't long enough for a full semester, it did have enough for a professor to teach a women's rights module as a unit in a broader class, or to use it as a foundation for a class dedicated to women's rights. The textbook could also be a starting point for a practicing lawyer who wanted to become active in women's rights.

Unlike "Civil Procedure in Sweden," the Ginsburg textbook is little cited. As an introduction to the field of women's law, it was soon outdated, thanks in part to the judicial victories that Ginsburg was winning with her briefs.

Women's Rights Law Journal

Besides writing her own books and articles, Ginsburg guided the first legal journal dedicated to women's issues, the Women's Rights Law Reporter. The entering class of 1970 at Rutgers Law School was 20 percent women. Some of them met with a recent Rutgers Law graduate, Ann Marie Boylan, who had published the first issue of the Reporter from her apartment in Newark. But she couldn't keep up the whole publication by herself.

The Rutgers students talked with the law school dean and worked out a deal. The Women's Rights Law Reporter got an office space on campus and raised enough money in donations and subscriptions to pay its expenses, such as printing and mailing.

Besides fundraising for self-sufficiency, the dean's other condition was that the student-written Women's Rights Law Reporter had to have a faculty adviser. That would be professor Ginsburg.

The Reporter published "short articles and case summaries exclusively on women's rights issues," explained cofounder Elizabeth Langer in a 2010 article for Barnard College. "Our first issues were collectively conceived and published with conscious effort made to avoid the traditional law review hierarchy."

As Langer recalled: "Professor Ginsburg devoted many hours to writing and editing, counseling the staff, attending meetings, and inevitably mediating with the administration when problems arose."

In the Reporter's first issue from Rutgers, the lead article was Ginsburg's analysis of the Supreme Court's recent decision supporting women's rights, in Reed v. Reed, for which Ginsburg had coauthored the merits briefs.

Rutgers professor Ginsburg would later become a Columbia professor, a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and then a Justice of the Supreme Court. Her illustrious career would be founded on the same characteristics she had shown in those early years at Rutgers: vision, clarity, and generosity.

This article was originally published in Epoch Times, Sept. 23, 2020, and is slightly revised.

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  1. Poor girl. While evil privileged men were being shot to ribbons in Heartbreak Ridge or the jungles of ‘Nam she faced the far greater peril of feeling out of place or patronized in the stuffy mahogany lined halls of elite Law. Truly women bear the the lion’s share of the suffering in the world and none more so than her. She’s sort of like Jesus or Jesus is sort of like her since he’s a man and that automatically means he got off easy.

    1. RBG was prohibited from serving in combat in Nam, so not her fault. She helped change that.

      I’m no RBG fan, but a fair-minded person recognizes both the good and evil in a person. She was generally good on women’s issues but weak on human rights more broadly. See Kelo, Citizens United, etc. She was an activist ideologue.

      1. Everybody had their burden in the old world order created by men (and women) but RGB benefited from this regardless. And worse flipped in around as if her ilk was the most burdened.

        Does the antebellum southern belle get to claim she’s the most oppressed of creatures even more than the field worker because she was born into her role?

        1. Do you forbid her from complaining because she was not the worst-oppressed? Does only the worst-oppressed person get to complain? Because if so, they are no longer the worst-oppressed person, and no longer get to complain.

          1. Both the WWII soldier and the feminist had difficulties in life. The difference is that WWII soldier wrote a few books and gave us insights into it while the feminist cooked up an entire major industry that reinvented history to center around how evil man did nothing and was dedicated to nothing but oppressing women and and how easy men have it and how womyn are oppressed in every single imaginable facet of their life from room temperature to razors. And how they were slaves throughout history relgated to cooking but how they somehow simultaneously also made 50%+ of the technical/scientific/cultural/military achievements of mankind and evil men stole and hide this. And this industry dominates and intrudes on the life of everybody constantly.

            1. What is it about a white, male, right-wing blog that is so attractive to seething, anti-social incels?

    2. Poor boy.

    3. “While evil privileged men were being shot to ribbons in Heartbreak Ridge or the jungles of ‘Nam”

      . . . and some were confecting illusory bone spurs, such as the one for whom obsolete right-winger will vote this fall.

      Naming the Supreme Court building for Ruth Bader Ginsburg seems a fitting commemoration. Cranky old Republican men wouldn’t like it — but after the election, their preferences are not going to much matter in America.

      1. Or dodging service due to ‘asthma’ then playing football while achieving poor grades while not as he claims at a HBCU, not as he claims the the first in his family to earn a degree, not as he claims from a line of coal miners. But, superiority, right? Only good lies. And only good sexual harassment, if not assault. And only good disregard for civil rights and liberties for 47 years. And only good racist remarks. One thing is certain, regardless of winner, after the election, your team is going to continue to dox, assault, vandalize, burn, destroy property when others don’t hold the same views and when they don’t get their way.

        1. My team is going to figuratively bomb your team back to the political Stone Age.

          Bigotry, belligerent ignorance, and childish superstition have consequences. Relatively predictable consequences. Plainly deserved consequences.

          It’s too late for clingers to do anything but lose and whimper.

    4. There’s a reason this kind of ridiculousness stays in the Man-O-Sphere.

      Either the draft oppresses men or it oppresses women. Either way it’s discriminatory. That was, in fact, RBG’s tactic in her early cases.

      Calling her a poor girl just shows you for bitter and impotent.

    5. “While evil privileged men were being shot to ribbons in Heartbreak Ridge or the jungles of ‘Nam…”

      Real men wouldn’t have it any other way.

  2. Why Sweden, a common pilgrimage destination for elite females in a lot of fields, in those days? Abortion was legal there.

    This white supremacist, mass murderer signed the death warrants of millions of babies who had nothing wrong, 30% being black. She learned all about doing that in Sweden. BLM should be tearing down any statues of her. The genocidal maniac KKK took 100 years to lynch 4000 blacks. The feminist lawyer achieves an excess of 4000 murders of black males a year, through the destruction of the black family. The latter had survived slavery, Jim Crow discrimination, poverty, the terror of the KKK. It could not survive the feminist lawyer War on Poverty.

    Feminism itself is a masking ideology, as the KKK is, for lawyer rent seeking and empowerment. It is a worthless tool of lawyer enrichment, returning nothing of value to society.

    1. Sweden itself is case study why giving into feminism/social justice doesn’t work. Barely any place on earth has bent over backward and done as much as they can to cave into feminism and the feminists and sjws are far more crazed and unhappy and militant there than anywhere else.

  3. “To study Swedish law, Ginsburg learned Swedish.”

    There is almost no anecdote about the late Justice Ginsburg that is not truly amazing and remarkable. I mean, I love CivPro as much (more) than the next person, but … dang.

    Still, the story about how she had Nabokov as a professor for undergrad always makes me smile.

    1. I’m starting to think we should not name the Supreme Court building for her.

      Maybe we should name the Supreme Court for her.

      1. Naming a federal building for a mass murderer is pretty sick. Mao killed killed fewer people.

      2. Maybe we should name the Supreme Court for her.
        >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

        No objections here. If it weren’t for her we’d not have this brilliant opportunity to finally flip the Court 6-3. Go RGB!

    2. I got another anecdote. She fell asleep on the job so often they drew her with her face buried on the desk, and the other Justices uncomfortably ignoring her. Thats a type of amazing I guess.

  4. Something left out of the description of her career path is that RBG went that way because no firm would hire her. And despite glowing recommendations from his favorite “feeder” professors, Felix Frankfurter wouldn’t hire her.
    Room, elephant.

    1. A lawyer I knew experienced a similar circumstance. She finished first in her law school class — one of five or so women in that class — and was offered a job by each of the three most prominent firms in town:

      one as a secretary/receptionist;

      one as a law librarian;

      and one as a paralegal.

      So she started her own firm, which was difficult for a Jewish woman in the 1950s. She developed a national reputation — won an important case at the Supreme Court, was a board member at a prominent national organization, won another nationally celebrated and groundbreaking case — and I would wager she earned at least as much as any partner at my firm (one of those which had snubbed her) over the years.

      Those ‘good old days’ often sucked, but America has improved.

      1. That lawyer should have applied for a position at an urban, Democratic-run firm instead of continually applying to rural, Republican clinger firms. Which I presume is what she did, right?

  5. So she was instrumental with the invention of a bogus area of academic studies and then a journal where the practitioners of that victim studies area can grind their axes. What is so noteworthy of this?

  6. In order to truly celebrate her life long commitment to equality for women, we must tear down her statue as soon as it is erected, so she will be treated like an old white man.

  7. SCOTUS was free of the jew from ’68 to ’93. Ruthie is dead, gone, can be forgotten like Taney and Fortas. Fitting that the Rabbinical jurist be replaced by a Catholic, let the left howl!!! Who is next?

    1. Excuse me, but I have to take a shower now.

      1. If you’re going to hang out at the Volokh Conspiracy, this is what you will get.

        1. Yes, you’re going to get some bigoted, annoying commenters.

    2. Yo, Pavel. Take it easy there. What is your religious affiliation? Your name sounds Hebraic.

  8. Reading these comments about a female judge is causing me to wonder whether it was entirely coincidence that certain applicants found their way to a clerkship for Judge Kozinski.

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