Our team at Mehri & Skalet joins the nation in grieving the passing of Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Justice Ginsburg is one of our heroes. Prior to her time on the bench, she persuaded the Supreme Court in five landmark cases that the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause prohibits sex discrimination as it does race discrimination. She selected cases to help the 1970s Court comprehend that sex-based classifications harm all people, not just women. Later, as a justice in 1996, she reaffirmed that principle in the majority opinion she authored striking down the Virginia Military Institute’s male-only admissions policy. Subsequently, hundreds of women have graduated from the elite school.
Some of Justice Ginsburg’s most impactful opinions were her dissents, such as her minority opinion in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., in which she directly called on Congress to overturn the majority’s decision and protect fair pay. In reaction, Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. She also fiercely dissented when the court’s majority gutted the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder stating, “throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”
But her achievements as a lawyer and Justice are only one of the reasons to honor her. She flourished as a lawyer despite facing the same type of sex discrimination – along with religious discrimination – that she opposed throughout her career. After graduating tied for first from the Columbia Law School, one of the top law schools in the country, no law firm would employ her. The same type of indomitability that allowed her to overcome that discrimination also guided her during her decades of fighting against cancer that would have felled most people. And she attained the summit of her profession while displaying a civility toward others, including law clerks and Justices whose views she strongly opposed, that is legendary and too often absent from this country’s affairs. For all these reasons, she belongs among the pantheon of American heroes.
Hailed as a women’s rights legend, Justice Ginsburg advised young women in 2015: “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” At Mehri & Skalet, we commit to honoring Justice Ginsburg’s legacy by continuing to use the law to fight for a more just America. Her decades-long, methodical efforts to dismantle sexism embedded in the law inspire us to be strategic and persevering as we move forward in the struggle for gender and racial justice.