Five things to know about the ‘Notorious RBG’

Justice Ginsburg lived a storied life, filled with judicial accomplishments and personal friends on the Supreme Court.

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was small in stature but had an outsized persona and remained vigorous into her 80s [Mary Altaffer/AP Photo]

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who became a hero of the US liberal-left in her more than a quarter-century on the nation’s top court, died on Friday at age 87.

Ginsburg, who was born in New York on March 15, 1933, went to Cornell University and Harvard Law School before receiving her law degree from Columbia University, where she later taught.

Ginsburg had a storied career before she joined the high court. While in private practice, Ginsburg won five cases involving women’s rights before the Supreme Court and was quoted in Time magazine as saying her strategy was to “attack the most pervasive stereotype in the law – that men are independent and women are men’s dependents.”

Here are five interesting facts about Ginsburg:

She was a fierce advocate for women’s rights

“I ask no favour for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks,” she said in a 2018 documentary, RBG, about her life. 

In it, she said she felt like a kindergarten teacher when it came to discussing sexual discrimination with other judges, asking them how they would like their daughters and granddaughters to be treated. 

Ginsburg’s most well-known majority opinion came in 1996 when the court invalidated the state-run Virginia Military Institute’s exclusion of women. Expansively interpreting the Constitution’s equality guarantee, Ginsburg wrote that while Virginia “serves the state’s sons, it makes no provision whatever for her daughters. That is not equal protection.”

She asked tough questions and wrote tough dissents

On the Supreme Court, Bader developed a reputation as a tough questioner and emerged as part of its liberal faction with little tolerance for sexual discrimination. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg painting NY
Children are photographed in front of a painting in a New York City storefront Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsburg  [Andrew Kelly/Reuters]

Some of Ginsburg’s most famous statements came in the form of dissents. In Bush v Gore, which decided the outcome of the 2000 presidential race that eventually saw former President George W Bush elected, the Supreme Court decided in a 5-4 decision that a recount of ballots in Florida could not be accomplished in a reasonable timeline. 

This handed the election to Bush. 

“The court’s conclusion that a constitutionally adequate recount is impractical is a prophecy the court’s own judgment will not allow to be tested. Such an untested prophecy should not decide the presidency of the United States,” Ginsburg wrote in the dissent. 

“I dissent”, she concluded. 

She had a history of health concerns

Ginsburg faced numerous health issues and was treated for colon cancer in 1999, pancreatic cancer in 2009 and 2019 and lung cancer in December 2018.

In May 2020, she was back in the hospital for treatments for a benign gall bladder condition. She was hospitalised again on July 14 for an infection related to earlier treatment.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a liberal icon famed for championing women’s rights [File: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo]

Ginsburg was known for keeping a tight fitness regime well into her 80s. She remained vigorous, seen in the 2018 documentary working out and lifting weights with a personal trainer while donning a blue sweatshirt emblazoned with the words, “SUPER DIVA”.

She resisted calls made by some liberals that she retire towards the end of President Barack Obama’s presidency so as to ensure a Democratic president would appoint her successor. 

Some called her the “Notorious RBG”

In her later years, Ginsburg gained a newfound celebrity, becoming known as “Notorious RBG” after the late rapper, The Notorious BIG.

An Oscar-nominated documentary film and a Hollywood biographical movie, On the Basis of Sex, about her were released in 2018.

In Washington, DC, posters of Ginsburg’s stylised image are commonly displayed. At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, which more greatly impacts the elderly, posters asking people to wear a mask for Ginsburg became common. 

She was close friends with the most conservative justice

Ginsburg was a friend of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative stalwart who died in 2016. They shared a love of opera. 

Decisions authored by Scalia were often biting, and Ginsburg said she viewed them as a challenge. 

The former law professors traveled abroad together and for decades spent New Year’s Eve at a dinner party in Ginsburg‘s Watergate apartment in Washington.

Scalia, who died in 2016, said Ginsburg would be remembered for her work on women’s rights and attention to fair civil procedure.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies