Background

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the second woman appointed as a justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. She was appointed to the court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and served until her death in September 2020.  Ginsburg successfully fought against discrimination throughout her legal career.  She was a rarity in Harvard Law School: one of nine women among a class of 500 men. She excelled in her studies at Harvard but transferred to Columbia Law School when her husband took a position in New York. She graduated first in her class from Columbia Law in 1959.

As the director of the influential Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union during the 1970s, she successfully argued six significant cases before the Supreme Court. In those cases, she fought against gender discrimination for both men and women. She was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. And served as a judge on that court until her appointment to the Supreme Court.

Throughout her career, her strategy was to make slow but steady progress against discrimination. She attacked specific areas of discrimination and violations of women’s rights. She believed that it was the responsibility of Congress and state legislatures to enact major changes; it was the responsibility to tell the legislatures what they are can and cannot do. She believed social change should be the responsibility of the legislatures with guidance from the court system.  

When the Supreme Court hears a case, the justices review the information and generally take manyl months to make a decision in the case.  As the cases are decided, the justices who are in the majority write a “majority” opinion explaining the court’s decision. Frequently, those who disagree with the majority write a dissenting opinion stating their opinion on the issue.

During her years on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg wrote many opinions either in support of the majority opinion or as a dissent of the majority’s decision. As more conservative Justices were appointed to the Supreme Court, Ginsburg has increasingly disagreed with the majority opinions. She often wrote dissenting opinions expressing her thoughts on a decision and became known as “The Dissenter.” Ginsburg was a formidable intellect and a powerful voice in the Supreme Court.

Instructions

The following is a 90 minute documentary film on the life and work of Justice Ginsburg. RBG was released in 2018. Watch the film then write an expository essay about the film answering the following prompts. Do not refer to any outside sources.

  • As a student, a lawyer and a judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg overcame many obstacles. How did her personal and early professional experiences lead to her focus on arguing sex discrimination cases?
  •  How did Justice Ginsburg’s dedication to ending discrimination continue in her role as Supreme Court Justice? Select one case that was discussed in the film to illustrate that your point.

The essay should be between 500 and 700 words, using correct grammar, punctuation, paragraph structure. Once again, do not refer to any outside sources for this assignment.

The rubric used in grading this assignment is available by clicking on the three vertical dots at the top of this page.