Monday, October 17, 2011

Ginsburg's Advice to Judges: Dare to Disagree

At the National Association of Women Judges conference in Newark last week, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg "offered a piece of advice: Dare to disagree."
"It is a subject that I have had the occasion to talk on quite often," Ginsburg said to laughter, referring to her long career on the bench and the many Supreme Court cases in which she has sided with the dissenting opinion.

. . .

The petite, 78-year-old jurist, who was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993, traced the history of dissension in the courts, starting as early as Justice Benjamin Curtis’ 1857 dissent in the Dred Scott Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg offers advice to female Newark judgesCase. In the infamous ruling, the Supreme Court’s majority opinion said that people of African descent in the United States could not become citizens.

"On rare occasions, a dissent turns the court and becomes the opinion of the court," Ginsburg said last night.

She noted that often a well articulated opinion can spark action, as occurred after her dissent in the 2007 Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. case.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg offers advice to female Newark judgesN.J. Star-Ledger, Oct. 16, 2011.

Justice Ginsburg has been interested in the role of dissents for some time. In 1989, when she was still on the D.C. Circuit, she spoke on the topic at UW Law. See Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Remarks on Writing Separately, 65 Wash. L. Rev. 133 (1990), HeinOnline, WLR archive.

You can see Prof. Schnapper's interview of Lily Ledbetter, the plaintiff in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., on UW Law's Multimedia Gallery.

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