• Lebanon - Beirut
  • October 30, 2020
FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2011, file photo, President Barack Obama hugs Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Capitol Hill in Washington, prior to delivering his State of the Union address. From left are, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Obama, Justice Ginsburg and Justice Stephen Breyer. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool, File)
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William Hare

Author and Historian

The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the age of 87 came following a long battle with pancreatic cancer in which she refused to retire since so many future battles remained to be fought on behalf of the rights of the people.  Her appointment to the United States Supreme Court provided an opportunity for a woman for whom the word tenacious could have been invented.

Tenacious was the watchword to describe her from the time that she decided that law was the field where in she would make her mark. It was a fortuitous choice since it was a field where women were routinely excluded. 

In studying her busy life the conclusion is that she forged her destiny by helping those who fought for equal opportunity. The term “weaker sex” that was repeatedly invoked by rigid male chauvinists for years. It was refuted by her through her dogged steadfastness.

She scored a scholastic double in graduating first in her class from the world’s most famous law school, Harvard.  Rather than receiving offers to clerk for leading federal judges or be offered a position at a prominent law firm, as would have been the case with a man with her credentials, young Ruth was compelled to prove herself over the long course of time. 

Eventually her tenacity resulted in a Supreme Court appointment from President Bill Clinton.  One of her prouder and meaningful votes was to provide women with legal protection to receive equal pay for equivalent work as males.  Such gender discrimination had been prevalent for years.

There was also the issue of racial discrimination.  Judge Ginsburg had seen its ugly face during those years toiling in the vineyards.  When she saw the law being used to discriminate against Arab Americans she fought tenaciously to insure that Arabs be afforded the same protections as other citizens. 

As a shrewd judge she also recognized the sophistry of lawyers who, after being thwarted in areas such as women’s equal pay and discrimination, chipped away at such legal safeguards by selective attack by seeking to overturn key phrases without striking down laws in their entirety.

Ginsburg counteracted such selective whittling by asserting that the protections had been part of the laws’ original design and purpose.  Hence they should remain.

A milestone position affecting a presidential election, while eventuating in the short end of a 5-4 outcome, placed Judge Ginsburg in the kind of lofty position of some of the most memorable decisions of the venerable Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, known in legal history as “The Great Dissenter.”

The year was 2000. The New Millennium’s first year ended with a protracted battle for the presidency in the case of Bush v. Gore.  The respective captains for the Republican and Democratic teams were two former Secretaries of State, James Baker and Warren Christopher.

After then Vice-president Al Gore succeeded in obtained a voting recount, which was mandated by Florida law due to the closeness of the vote the Bush team appealed and the case was ultimately decided by the U..S. Supreme Court. 

Many legal scholars questioned the validity of granting certiorari, or judicial review. The rationale was that then Governor George Bush of Texas lacked legal standing to contest the earlier court ruling.

The rationale was that he had lost an earlier court ruling.  In that there was no evidence of fraud perpetrated by the Gore forces Bush had no basis on which to buttress an appeal.

Many observers noted that from an equity standpoint it was Bush dirty tricksters led by Roger Stone who interrupted and were successful in ending a ballot recount in Miami’s Dade County.

Other critics noted that on election night the source of the declaration call on television of Bush as winner of Florida’s electoral votes, which in turn triggered a chain reaction on other networks.  The initial Bush call was made by Fox News.  The person in charge of the election call was John Ellis. He happened to be the cousin of George W. Bush. 

Had the Florida Appellate Court’s ruling of a statewide recount Vote would have prevailed under the state law, which invested authority to individual counties to establish voting standards, then Gore would have prevailed through the recount in Duval County, located in and around Jacksonville. Instead the Republican appeal halted the recount effort then underway under the supervision of Judge Terry Lewis.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg battled tenaciously against the leading proponent of the Bush position, Chief Justice Antonin Scalia. She had traveled too many miles and seen too many injustices to be swayed by specious reasoning motivated by politics rather than legal reasoning.

One revealing footnote remains. After the case was decided and Bush was in his first presidential term Scalia accepted an invitation to speak before the Oxford Union, the prominent British university debating society. Its membership includes some of the sharpest minds in the Land of Shakespeare.

Scalia accepted the invitation but promptly let it be known that he would not discuss the Bush v. Gore case.

Think of how history would have been altered had there been one more Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court deciding the Bush v. Gore Case and one less of the Scalia viewpoint.

(J. D. NEWS)

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