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Justice Ginsburg on Campus for Law Day

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks with students
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks with students at the Q&A.

(Boston, Revised 11/13/09) New England Law | Boston: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was New England Law | Boston’s special guest for the March 13, 2009, Law Day observance. Students and faculty had several opportunities to discuss legal issues with the Court’s sole female justice.

Justice Ginsburg began the day by meeting with faculty and students. Law Day co-chairs Sarah Caplinger (’09) and Holly Gryko (’09) and Student Bar Association president Tara Cho (’09) greeted her on behalf of the student body.

In the evening, she served as guest of honor at New England Law’s Centennial Law Day Banquet. Justice Ginsburg addressed more than 1,300 students, alumni, and local dignitaries who gathered in the Grand Ballroom of the Boston Marriott Copley Place hotel. Her “Lighter Side of Life at the United States Supreme Court” provided a rarely seen insider’s view of the Court’s inner workings.

Dean of New England Law | Boston, John F. O'Brien with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Dean John F. O'Brien with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the faculty breakfast.

Dean John O’Brien (’77) expressed the law school’s deep appreciation for Justice Ginsburg’s contributions to Law Day. “Justice Ginsburg’s presence greatly enhanced our Centennial celebration. Her evening remarks gave us an insight that most of us would otherwise never have into some of the dynamics within the High Court. We are equally grateful for her willingness to spend time today with our students, faculty, and trustees. It is a day that none of us will forget.”

Justice Ginsburg’s skills as former law professor were evident in question-and-answer remarks to students in a morning session. A deferential silence accompanied her recounting of the landmark Loving v. Virginia case, which in 1967 overturned the nation’s race-based marriage restrictions.

Ligee Gu (’10) noted, “In Race and the Law, we primarily discuss the Equal Protection laws and stress the fact that all persons should be treated equally under the Constitution. Hearing Justice Ginsburg emphasize that was very moving for me.”

Justice Ginsburg recalled the obstacles that she herself faced as a young female attorney. Despite graduating tied for first in her Columbia Law School class, she endured the prejudice of law firms that would not consider hiring a woman, especially one with a child. “The world is really different for you,” she told students.

Students enjoying the talk with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ginsburg went generously beyond scheduled time, answering questions on her dissenting opinions (“Sometimes I’m thinking of what the Court may say ten years from now”), the diverse backgrounds of her fellow justices (“I think it’s an advantage”), and many other issues.

The presentation enabled students to get a good feel for Justice Ginsburg’s style and demeanor. Wei Ren (’12) noted, “The second she walked in, you could see that she is a very humble person, very down to earth, and very kind.”

Kevin Crick (’09) was impressed with Justice Ginsburg’s skill in politely declining to directly answer a question regarding same-sex marriage. “She was constantly aware of what she was saying,” he observed. “She was so sharp and quick-witted.”

Crick continued, “We’re very lucky to hear from two justices [Justices Ginsburg and O’Connor] in one year.”

Justice Ginsburg's New England Law visit received widespread media coverage from more than 200 newspapers, radio and television stations, and Web sites across the nation.

New England Law students have also had the opportunity to learn from Justice Antonin Scalia, who was a guest lecturer in the law school’s 2008 summer program in Galway, Ireland. This summer’s program will feature Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.

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