Post Authored By: Laura Wibberley
The Honorable Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was only the second woman to serve on The United States Supreme Court since she assumed her position in August 1993. Justice Ginsburg often joined in the majority opinions in each of her terms. Though, she was known for her celebrated and magnetic dissents. Justice Ginsburg would wear her sparkling dissent collar as part of her wardrobe when announcing her dissent from the majority opinions from the bench, which became a celebrated symbol for many.
Here are some of Justice Ginsburg’s more prominent decisions:
United States v. Virginia (1996)
Justice Ginsburg drafted the landmark majority opinion that struck down The Virginia Military Institute’s requirement that only males be accepted into the institution. The majority opinion held that this rule was unconstitutional violating the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Institute failed to demonstrate an “exceedingly persuasive justification” for the readily apparent gender discrimination. Even more, Justice Ginsburg also held that the remedy offered by The Virginia Military Institute, which was to create a separate institutional requiring only women into the institute, did not cure the constitutional violation. Her decision demanded that The Virginia Military Institute make its program available to women.
Shelby County v. Holder (2013)
Justice Ginsburg drafted the dissent in this case criticizing the majority’s decision to strike down sections of the Voting Rights Act that prohibited districts from enacting changes to election laws and procedures absent official authorization and defined eligible districts. The majority held that these key sections were unconstitutional in conjunction with the Tenth Amendment. However, Justice Ginsburg opined that this legislation specifically targeted potential state abuses. Justice Ginsburg famously wrote, “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”
Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber (2007)
Justice Ginsburg drafted a dissenting opinion in a case involving gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Ms. Lilly Ledbetter argued that she consistently received low rankings and low raises compared to her similarly situated male counterparts. The majority held in a 5-4 opinion that Ms. Ledbetter was denied the ability to recover from her employer for gender-based pay discrimination due to the Title VII provision which required discrimination complaints to be made within 180 days of the discriminatory conduct. Justice Ginsburg criticized the majority’s ruling calling it a “cramped interpretation of Title VII.” Justice Ginsburg continued the fight even after writing her dissenting opinion until President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, which accordingly amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014)
The Honorable Justice Ginsburg wrote the dissent in this case wherein Hobby Lobby argued that the Department of Health and Human Services’ regulation under the Affordable Care Act (requiring corporations to provide health insurance coverage for birth control methods) was unlawful and violated the corporation’s sincerely held religious beliefs. The majority ruled 5-4 to allow Hobby Lobby the ability to restrict insurance coverage for forms of contraceptives that were mandated under this law. In Justice Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion, she highlighted the fact that the Affordable Care Act and the HHS’s regulation was promulgated following the reality that women had historically paid significantly more than men for preventative care. She emphasized that these barriers to healthcare blocked many women from care entirely. Justice Ginsburg challenged the breadth of the majority opinion, pointing out that “Congress left health care decisions-including the choice among contraceptive methods-in the hands of women, with the aid of their health care providers.”
Justice Ginsburg’s courage to fight on behalf of the voiceless catapulted the legal landscape into a new era. Despite herself facing gender discrimination, Justice Ginsburg did not allow her past to conquer her. Instead, she triumphed in being appointed to the highest court in the nation and worked tirelessly to establish new precedent to unearth injustice. Thank you, Honorable Justice Ginsburg.
About the Author:
Laura Wibberley concentrates her practice in the area of medical negligence serving in the defense of hospitals, physicians, and medical staff members. She also has the honor of defending long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities. Her defense work involves pre-litigation investigation and counseling, as well as guidance and recommendations to her clients in various risk management strategies. She graduated Valedictorian from The John Marshall Law School.