In Memory We clerked for RBG. She lived a life that reflected her vision of equality.
Abbe R. Gluck and Gillian E. Metzger are former law clerks for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
There was our justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg: âAt the end of the day, the government is throwing to the wind the womenâs entitlement. â¦â She was forcefully intervening at oral argument in the last months of her life, in a case about access to contraception under the Affordable Care Act. Her dissent, issued in July, condemned the majority for leaving potentially half a million women to âfend for themselves.â
It was her last opinion about gender equality after a lifetime of advocacy and leadership on the court. She was keenly aware, as she always was, of how the law affects real women in real life. And as always, nothing could stop her from speaking up.
We clerked for Justice Ginsburg in the 1997 and 2003 terms. She was a role model for us in law and in life; how to work, how to write, how to advocate, how to partner, how to mentor. She was already famous when we clerked for her. But that she later became a feminist icon in her octogenarian years for millions of little girls around the world is nothing short of extraordinary.
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Say it Louder The next Supreme Court Justice should be a Black woman
The death last week of distinguished Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg gives President Donald Trump a chance to demonstrate that his continual rhetoric about how dedicated and devoted to justice for Black Americans he is really means something. Trump has been constantly claiming heâs been the âbest thing that ever happened to Black Americans,â despite his refusal to seriously address issues of social justice or equal opportunity that Blacks and other people of color have been demonstrating about for months.
Now he can and should do something about another problem that many have been citing for decades: the absence of a Black woman on the Supreme Court. There has never been one even nominated, let alone confirmed. This would be an ideal time for Trump to make positive history, and show heâs serious about doing something to change the widespread belief that heâs not only sympathetic to White supremacist ideas, but is a supporter of them. He could also get his Senatorial supporters to confirm a Black woman and end a situation thatâs long been a disgrace. Trump said he plans to announce the name of his candidate at the end of this week.
Interestingly, last May Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden pledged to support a Black woman for the Court if he won. But he later refused to name any specific candidates, instead saying he would vet several, and when/if the time came select one. Now Trump has the opportunity, should he decide to use it, to make that choice. According to the Federal Judicial Center, there are currently 17 Black woman federal judges under the age of 60, which has been considered the upper limit for Supreme Court nominees over the last few decades. President Trumpâs last two appointees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kvanaugh, were 49 and 53.
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More of This Artists honor RBD by creating a mural in her honor
Less Of This Leading contender to replace RBG thinks poll taxes are constitutional
President Donald Trump has made it clear that he believes virtually any measure that expands voting access is invalid and rigged. And whomever he picks to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburgâs seat on the Supreme Court will need to share that view. Shortly after he learned of Ginsburgâs death, Trump told a crowd in North Carolina that he is âcounting on the federal court systemâ to limit how many votes get counted. Perhaps thatâs why he is reportedly considering Judge Barbara Lagoa for the seat. Lagoa is not just conservativeâsheâs also a partisan who flouted judicial ethics to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of people in Florida, potentially throwing the state to Trump. Lagoaâs unprincipled conduct in that case makes her a perfect candidate for the presidentâs midnight appointment.
Lagoa, 52, was born in Miami. Her parents are Cuban refugees. She served for three years as a federal prosecutor before then-Gov. Jeb Bush appointed her to the Florida Court of Appeals in 2006. She is a longtime member of the Federalist Society, the conservative network of lawyers whoâve provided intellectual cover to Trumpâs policies, crimes, and cover-ups. In 2019, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis elevated her to the Florida Supreme Court, making her the first Latina to join the bench. She promptly joined the new conservative majority in revisiting and overturning progressive precedents.
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Perspective The secret weapon to fix the Supreme Court
Erwin Chemerinsky is dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law.
Wouldnât it be nice if Democrats and Republicans could just agree that the fair and right course would be to not replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg until after the presidential inauguration in January? We could simply stick, for now, with the precedent established by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell when he refused to hold a vote on the nomination of Merrick Garland to replace Justice Antonin Scalia.
At the time, nearly nine months before the 2016 presidential election, he declared, âThe American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.â
But just hours after the announcement of Ginsburgâs death on Friday, McConnell declared, âPresident Trumpâs nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.â
There is little Democrats can do to stop Trump from nominating someone and the Republicans from confirming that person quickly, if thatâs what they choose to do. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, and they have eliminated the use of the filibuster in Supreme Court nominations. So the hope must be that four Republican senators â perhaps those facing tight reelection races â will have the courage to stand up to their party and refuse to allow a confirmation to be rushed through.
That is probably a distant hope. So far, Senate Republicans have shown little inclination to stand up to Trump and McConnell, as was evident in their confirming Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, despite compelling testimony about an alleged sexual assault and perjury â and despite clear evidence that he lacked judicial temperament. Nor did Republicans demonstrate any independence or courage during the impeachment of Trump.
That leaves Democrats with few cards to play at a crucial moment for our democracy. The stakes are enormous. Last term, with Ginsburg on the bench, the court handed down surprising 5-4 decisions to protect individual rights, including a decision to strike down Louisianaâs restrictive abortion law and to invalidate Trumpâs rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. If Ginsburg is replaced by a hard-line conservative who puts politics and feelings ahead of the law, the chance of such rulings will evaporate.
On the current court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is ideologically in the middle. To be sure, he is to the right of Americaâs current political center, but at times he joins with the liberals, including in a vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act. If Ginsburg is replaced with someone from the far right, like Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who is frequently mentioned as a likely nominee, there will be five justices substantially more conservative than Roberts. There would be virtually no hope that abortion rights could survive such a court, and little chance of checking Trump.
One way for Democrats to make clear they will not tolerate Republicans trying to fill this seat in advance of the election would be for them to pledge that, if they take the White House and Senate in November, they will increase the size of the Supreme Court to 13 justices.
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Legal Services Funders Signature Event
We're bringing together leaders from the public interest sector to share insights and observations about how COVID has impacted their work, the communities they serve, and the legal services community can âbuild back betterâ.
September 24 at 3:00PM PST. Register here
Dismantling Transphobia in the Workplace
How can law firms and organizations unlearn transphobic beliefs in order to foster a more inclusive workplace for transgender and gender nonconforming workers?
October 1 at 12:00PM PST. Register here
Townhall on Police Accountability
The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor pushed front-and-center this nationâs longstanding issues with systemic racism and have led to public calls for more police accountability. However, in order to effectuate change, one must first understand our current police oversight system.
September 29 at 5:30PM PST. Register here
Inaugural Virtual Fundraiser and a fireside chat with Honoree Scott Budnick and Moderator DMA.
October 15 at 5:30PM PST. Register here
Is the Supreme Court helping or hurting?
Alexander Hamilton called the judiciary the least dangerous branch of government. But since its establishment in 1789, the Supreme Court has steadily grown in influence and impact. So far this year the Court has issued rulings on presidential power, Congressional oversight, subpoenas to the president, church and state, LGBTQ rights, Dreamers, abortion, contraception, and the electoral college.
October 11 at 3PM PST. Register here