“Dissents speak to a future age. It’s not simply to say, ‘My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way.’ But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that’s the dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today, but for tomorrow.”
- Ruth Bader Ginsberg,
Supreme Court Justice
There has been much talk over the past 72 hours over how, when and with whom to replace the late justice that perhaps we should pause for at least a few moments to reflect on her legacy. Her passions: the law and the U.S. Constitution were not meant to be clouded by politics. To do so in the immediate aftermath of her passing on the first night of Rosh Hashanah is an enormous disservice.
We know the story. She rose through the ranks of the legal profession, fighting discrimination at every level. She challenged sexism, racism, and discrimination during her career rise, and while serving on the bench. And when she broke ranks with the majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, she offered dissenting opinions that became the basis for new laws to ensure our most basic rights. She has championed the rights of working women who sought equal pay for equal work; pregnant women who sought to hold their job; female students attending formerly all-male colleges or earning a degree to enter a workforce that was restricted to men, like science or engineering.
Her legacy has inspired countless other women to pursue public service. A New York State Bar Association survey in 2014 found a total of 95 women and 64 minority justices serving on the Supreme Court, the vast majority of whom sit in the New York City metropolitan area and surrounding suburbs. Countless others serve in local, county and other state courts and many women are on the ballot in a judicial race in 2020.
Though diminutive, she was a towering figure who faced every challenge with dignity, grace and humor. The void she leaves is immeasurable.