Dissenter on the Bench: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Life and Work

Dissenter on the Bench: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Life and Work

by Victoria Ortiz


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The life and career of the fiercely principled Supreme Court Justice, now a popular icon, with dramatic accounts of her landmark cases that moved the needle on legal protection of human rights, illustrated with b/w archival photographs.

Dramatically narrated case histories from Justice Ginsburg's stellar career are interwoven with an account of RBG’s life—childhood, family, beliefs, education, marriage, legal and judicial career, children, and achievements—and her many-faceted personality is captured. The cases described, many involving young people, demonstrate her passionate concern for gender equality, fairness, and our constitutional rights. Notes, bibliography, index.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544973640
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 06/04/2019
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 156,061
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)
Lexile: 1250L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Victoria Ortiz graduated from the City University of New York Law School. She has worked as a high school teacher, as a college teacher, as an attorney, and as dean of students at several law schools. Her published work includes Spanish for Lawyers (2012). Now retired, Ms. Ortiz lives in the Bay Area with her wife. 

Read an Excerpt


A Teen Takes Her Case to the Supreme Court

SAVANA LEE REDDING was an honor-roll student at a middle school in Arizona. She was thirteen years old, a shy girl who liked nothing better than to work on her school projects, read books, and generally keep to herself. “Ever since I was little, I loved school,” she remembered. “I never wanted to miss a day of it.”
      One October morning in 2003, the school’s assistant principal pulled Savana out of her eighth-grade math class. He took her to his office and questioned her about items the school authorities had discovered in the possession of Marissa Glines, a classmate of Savana’s, items that students were not allowed to have: prescription pills and an unidentified over-the-counter pill. Marissa Glines claimed that Savana had given her the forbidden pills. And another student reported to the assistant principal that Savana was planning to distribute pills to her fellow students at lunchtime that day.
      Savana denied ever having such pills, denied ever giving pills to Marissa, and denied ever making plans to distribute pills to other students. Confident because she was telling the truth, Savana agreed to let the assistant principal and an administrative assistant search her backpack. She knew they wouldn’t find any pills. And indeed, they found no forbidden items in her backpack.
      This was not the end of the story, however. The school authorities had only the unsupported accusations of two fellow students against Savana, the honor-roll student who had no disciplinary marks on her record. Even so, the assistant principal told the administrative assistant to take Savana to the nurse’s office. He instructed the two women, the assistant and the nurse, to search Savana’s clothing for the contraband pills. Now Savana was getting nervous, even though she had no pills on her. She was feeling pressured and helpless. In her words, “I didn’t have an option. I was a little kid. I didn’t have any idea how it would be handled.”
      Savana felt increasingly uncomfortable. The two school employees had her take off her jacket, socks, and shoes and found nothing incriminating. Then they ordered her to take off her black stretch pants with butterfly patches and her pink T-shirt. She complied reluctantly, and they found no pills in the seams of her garments. “Then they asked me to pull my bra out and to the side and shake it, exposing my breasts,” she recalled. “Then they asked me to pull out my underwear and shake it. They also told me to pull the underwear out at the crotch and shake it, exposing my pelvic area. I was embarrassed and scared, but I felt I would be in more trouble if I did not do what they asked. I held my head down so that they could not see that I was about to cry.”
      Savana was told she could put her clothes back on, but she was not allowed to call her mother or return to her class. Instead, even after the assistant principal had been informed that no pills had been found, she was forced to sit outside his office for two and a half hours, in full view of any student or teacher who might pass by.
      Savana couldn’t tell her mother about what had happened until the end of the school day, when she went out to the car where her mother was waiting as she did every day to pick Savana up and take her home. Years later, Savana’s mother, April Redding, wept at the memory of the helplessness she felt when she learned what had been done to her young daughter. “When Savana came out, she was very withdrawn. She came into the vehicle not wanting to look at me. Crying.” The school authorities never explained their actions to Savana or her mother, and they never apologized for putting her through the traumatizing strip search of her clothing and body.
      This experience was so devastating for Savana that she never returned to her school. She was heartbroken. “School had always been my safe place,” she said later. “I loved school so much, and that’s where I always felt the most loved by teachers and friends. I was always the really nice girl who was kind to everyone. I did all my assignments, made the Honor Roll and principal’s Gold List every semester, and was well liked by the teachers.”
      Deeply angered by what had been done to her daughter, Savana’s mother decided to fight against the intrusive school policy. First, Savana and her mom had to get legal help. They found it with the local Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU, as it is known, is a national organization that provides legal representation for people or groups whose constitutional rights and civil liberties have been threatened or violated by the government or some official agency. Savana and her mother began their lawsuit in federal district court. This is the trial-court level in the federal judiciary, which is the system that handles both criminal and civil cases under federal law.
      In a federal civil case, an individual who believes she has been wronged because her constitutional rights have been violated can bring a lawsuit against a government official or an organization or a business entity. In a federal criminal case, a U.S. attorney, or federal prosecutor, files criminal charges against an individual or entity for allegedly violating a federal criminal statute, such as the one prohibiting counterfeiting. Federal civil cases involve matters governed by federal civil laws or the Constitution. Savana’s case was a civil case against the school district that involved constitutional issues.
      In the federal district court, Adam Wolf, Savana’s attorney, argued that the school authorities had violated his young client’s Fourth Amendment rights. This amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure by government agents, including public school employees. The attorney specifically argued that the unwarranted strip search of the thirteen-year-old honor student was unreasonable and illegal.
      In preparing for this first stage of the legal process, Savana had to give an affidavit—a sworn statement—about the facts of the case. Throughout the months following the ordeal she had endured at her school, Savana had to repeat over and over again, in different settings and to different people—all of them strangers to her—the details of the ugly, humiliating strip-search incident. Even though this was very difficult for her and she would not be personally affected if she lost, Savana was determined to see her lawsuit through to the end. “It’s more about other kids,” she said. “I really don’t want this to happen again. Ever.”
      Savana lost her case at the first level, the trial court, or district court. She appealed to a higher court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals—the intermediate court, which is directly below the U.S. Supreme Court—for her circuit, or region. The federal courts are divided into twelve regional circuits, each representing a different geographical area of the nation. (There is also the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, which can hear appeals from any part of the country. These cases involve international trade, patents and trademarks, and veterans’ benefits, among others.) For example, the Ninth Circuit encompasses Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Montana, and California. Each circuit contains a number of lower courts called district courts, where trials take place. Each circuit is headed up by a court of appeals, which is where losing parties may take their disappointment and appeal the district court’s decision. If a case is lost at the circuit appeal level, the losing party can petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a further appeal. Each year (called a term), that highest court in the land, the court of last resort, receives thousands of petitions for further appeal. However, the Supreme Court will take on fewer than one hundred cases per term.
      In the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Savana initially lost before a three-judge panel. Luckily, she got a second chance to appeal, this time to the appeals court sitting en banc, which meant her case would be heard by a larger group of judges, including the original three. Although they did not all agree, a majority of the judges who heard Savana’s appeal thought her arguments were stronger than those of the school authorities. The court ruled that she had convincingly shown that the search of her clothes and body had violated her Fourth Amendment rights.
      But the school authorities would not let it rest. They appealed this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has the ultimate say on whether or not a person’s rights have been violated, so this was the last possible place for Savana’s lawyer to present his argument and hope for a final favorable decision. The lawyer would be assigned a date to deliver his best argument in support of Savana’s claim that the school authorities had violated her constitutional rights.
      On April 21, 2009, Savana and her mother sat in the courtroom of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. For Savana, the experience was, she recalled, “overwhelming.” Because she was a party in the case, which was called Safford Unified School District v. Redding, she and her mom did not have to wait in line with the general public. This was a good thing, since hundreds of people were waiting for seats that day. Many were turned away after all the available seats were filled. But the Reddings were able to go right to the special seats reserved for the people directly involved in that morning’s cases.
      Facing Savana and her team as they sat waiting for oral arguments to begin was the impressive wooden bench—not really a bench, but rather a raised platform with a long, slightly curved mahogany desk behind which the nine Supreme Court justices would sit. These nine women and men are called justices to distinguish them from the judges in all the different types of local, state, and federal courts below them.
      The raised bench, flanked by two American flags, was slightly higher than the public seating area and separated from it by a low wooden partition with a gate. Behind the justices’ nine chairs were four white marble columns. The south and north walls were also marble, with sculpted friezes showing great historical lawgivers (Moses, Solomon, Confucius, Muhammad, Charlemagne, Napoleon, and John Marshall, among them) and allegorical figures such as Authority, Light of Wisdom, and Equity.
      Savana’s lawyer had described the setting and participants to her ahead of time. She knew that the person seated to the far right of the bench was the Supreme Court marshal, who was in charge of maintaining order and decorum in the courtroom. Almost on the dot of ten that morning, Savana watched as the marshal stood up and raised the gavel she held in her hand. Savana was expecting the very formal opening of the session as the nine justices, including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, entered. Everyone stood when they heard the bang of the gavel, and the marshal said loudly:

The Honorable, the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honorable Court!

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born Joan Ruth Bader on March 15, 1933, a few days after Franklin Delano Roosevelt, known as FDR, was sworn in as the thirty-second president of the United States. This year was the worst of the Great Depression, a period when one in four Americans was unemployed. Across the Atlantic Ocean, shortly before Ruth was born, Adolf Hitler had been appointed the German chancellor of the Third Reich, ushering in the horrors of Nazism. A week after Joan Ruth’s birth, the first concentration camp in Germany was established—Dachau. These camps, also known as extermination camps, were brutal, deadly places where the Nazis sent the men, women, and children whom they classified as enemies: Jews, Romani people (referred to as Gypsies), gays, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, among others.
      Joan Ruth Bader lived with her parents and older sister, Marilyn, in a modest apartment in Flatbush, a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Tragically, Marilyn died of meningitis when she was almost seven years old and Joan Ruth was not yet two. Essentially, Ruth grew up as an only child.
      The two-family house the Bader family lived in was within walking distance of some of their closest relatives and of the public elementary and high schools Ruth would attend. When she started at Public School 238, which she attended from first grade through eighth grade, her parents learned that there were two other girls named Joan Ruth in her class and changed their daughter’s name from Joan Ruth to Ruth Joan. The Baders’ Flatbush neighborhood was lively, with Italian, Irish, and Jewish families living and working and playing side by side. Ruth’s classmates and friends represented all three of these groups, making for a very rich social education for her and her peers.
      Until Ruth was four, her aunt, uncle, and little cousin Richard shared her family’s apartment in a two-story gray building at 1584 East Ninth Street, a quiet street lined with trees. Richard was Ruth’s “double cousin”: his mother, Beatrice, and Ruth’s mother, Celia, were sisters; his father, Benjamin, and Ruth’s father, Nathan, were brothers. When Ruth and Richard were both babies, Ruth is said to have kicked Richard frequently, which led her older sister, Marilyn, to nickname her Kiki, pronounced “Kicky.” The nickname stuck, and her closest friends and relatives called her by that affectionate name ever after.
      Richard and Ruth were only three months apart in age and were very close. When his family moved out of the Baders’ apartment, they went only a few blocks away, and the two friends continued to spend time together. In the streets of Brooklyn, they rode their bikes, played ball (sometimes tossing a tomato around instead of a ball) and hopscotch, and jumped rope. When they were a little older, Ruth and Richard taught each other to dance to the tunes they played on the Victrola, a record player, in the Baders’ living room.
      Celia was deeply committed to her daughter’s education, both formal and informal. Together they attended young people’s operas and classical music concerts and went to major museums and cultural centers in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Ruth’s early experiences at the opera planted the seeds of a passion for that art form that would remain with her throughout her life.
      Ruth was everything her mother wanted her to be. When, from time to time, her daughter did not perform as Celia thought she should, she let Ruth know. Ruth said later, “In the third grade I brought home a ‘B’ on my report card. She was horrified that I could be so lazy I couldn’t even earn an ‘A.’” In fact, the only truly bad grade Ruth ever received—a D—was for penmanship when she was just learning to write. She was left-handed, and her teacher had tried to force her to write with her right hand.
      From the start, Ruth was a diligent, hard-working student. As early as elementary school, she developed the disciplined study habits that would lead to her great success there, in high school, and later in college. When she graduated from elementary school, she did so with a scholarship for outstanding achievement and service to the school. Ruth was also co-valedictorian at her elementary school graduation ceremony, on June 24, 1946. And she had the pleasure of playing the cello in the school orchestra on that memorable day. They performed “Land of Hope and Glory” and selections from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
      Most important for Ruth’s intellectual development was her introduction to the power of books. “One of my most pleasant memories,” she would recall, “is of my mother reading to me.” When Ruth was old enough to read on her own, she and her mother would go to the nearby public library. Ruth would sit and read while Celia went out to have her hair done. These weekly visits to the library soon turned Ruth into a prolific reader. Each week she signed out three, sometimes even five, books and happily devoured them at home. And since the library was in a building that also housed a Chinese restaurant, ever after her first visit there, Ruth associated the delicious aromas of Chinese cuisine with the deep pleasure she got from reading books.
      Young Ruth Bader was always drawn to stories and books featuring strong female characters, like Jo March in Little Women, and even quirky ones like Mary Poppins. She was especially fond of the Nancy Drew books. Years later she would explain why she liked this girl character: “Nancy was a girl who did things. She was adventuresome, daring, and her boyfriend was a much more passive type than she was.” Nancy Drew “was a girl . . . who could think for herself. The series made girls feel good, that they could be achievers and they didn’t have to take a back seat or be wallflowers.”
      The goddess Athena was one of Ruth’s favorites from the Greek legends. Not surprisingly, given the woman Ruth grew up to be, this inspiring deity symbolized wisdom and courage, strength and strategy, law and justice.
      A real-life hero of Ruth’s was Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo from the United States to Europe. This pioneering aviator had disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937, four years after Ruth was born. By the time Ruth was old enough to learn about Earhart, she was inspired by the aviator’s example and admired her for breaking through gender barriers and advocating for women’s equality.
      Ruth didn’t spend all her time buried in a book. In elementary school, she participated in the drama club, the school orchestra, and the eighth-grade devil-ball (a local version of dodgeball) tournament (her team won). When not at school, she hung out with a group of kids, including her cousin Richard, who remained a close friend through all their growing-up years. They did what kids in those days liked to do: play ball or jacks, ride their bikes, zip around on roller skates. Sometimes they would climb around the rooftops of the neighborhood houses, mischievously throwing gravel at unsuspecting passersby.
      Ruth applied her strong academic skills to extracurricular activities that involved writing. She was the editor of P.S. 238’s school newspaper, Highway Herald, and wrote articles for that paper. She wrote and published an editorial in the paper in June 1946, when she was about to graduate from eighth grade. Her essay focused on the importance of five historical documents: the Ten Commandments, the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution, and the Charter of the United Nations. Ruth ended her youthful editorial by calling on her classmates: “We children of public school age can do much to aid in the promotion of peace. We must try to train ourselves and those about us to live together with one another as good neighbors. It is the only way to secure the world against future wars and maintain an everlasting peace.”
      The lives of all Americans during the 1930s and 1940s were clouded by the Great Depression and then World War II. The war had officially started on September 1, 1939, when Ruth was six years old, and it officially ended during the spring and summer of 1945, when she was twelve. As a proud Jewish girl, raised in the traditions of her family’s faith, Ruth was acutely aware of what was going on in Europe: the dark significance of Nazism, especially to Jews, and how the sufferings of the targeted victim groups were felt by all decent people. The atrocities being committed by the Nazis and their allies in Europe horrified her parents, teachers, and neighbors, who were appalled at the idea that such things might happen in the United States. They had heard stories of millions of people being rounded up by the Nazi authorities and sent to be murdered in concentration or extermination camps. By the end of the war, between 15 and 20 million people had died in the camps. Decades later Ruth would recall, “Nobody wanted to believe what was really happening.”
      This period saw the growth of overt anti-Semitism in the United States. Though the Brooklyn neighborhood where Ruth and her family lived had been a safe place, now some of the Baders’ neighbors expressed hateful feelings toward them and other Jewish families. Some of the children with whom Ruth and her buddies played called their Jewish friends anti-Semitic names; some of the adults whispered ugly lies about Jews to neighborhood kids too naive to see through or challenge such fabrications. In Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s words, “One could not help but be painfully aware of the antisemitism that existed in our world.”
      The families of both her parents had left Europe to escape the violence that was directed at Jews long before World War II erupted. Ruth was familiar with the stories of the organized massacres known as pogroms, in which bands of non-Jewish people in the Old World attacked and killed their Jewish neighbors. She also knew that there were fewer opportunities for Jews everywhere, even in the United States, because of anti-Semitism. She said later, “I have memories as a child, even before the war, of being in a car with my parents and passing a place in Pennsylvania, a resort with a sign out in front that read: ‘No dogs or Jews allowed.’”
      In 1946, when Ruth was thirteen years old and in eighth grade, she was on the editorial staff of the Bulletin of the East Midwood Jewish Center, the synagogue where she went on Sundays to learn more about the Jewish faith. At thirteen, she was confirmed there. If she had been a boy, she would have had a ceremonial coming-of-age celebration called a bar mitzvah, but only confirmation was available for girls. When she graduated from the Center, she wrote the lead article in the Bulletin, in which she decried the evils of the war in Europe, urging her readers “never to forget the horrors which our brethren were subjected to in Bergen-Belsen and other Nazi concentration camps.” This short but profound piece was titled “One People” and put forth a principle that Ruth had learned in her studies of Judaism. This was the notion of tikkun olam, which in Hebrew means “the repairing of the world.” According to this principle, it is each person’s responsibility to repair those parts of society that are damaged by injustice or torn by inequality. Young Ruth wrote in 1946, “No one can feel free from danger and destruction until the many torn threads of civilization are bound together again.”
      Ruth’s developing value system, which prized kindness, justice, and fairness for everyone, was honed and encouraged during the summers she spent at Camp Che-Na-Wah, a Jewish girls’ camp in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. In the 1940s, it was not at all unusual for children, especially those living in urban areas, to be sent to day camps or sleep-away camps in rural surroundings. Many city parents felt that camp activities would prepare their children for civic and personal responsibilities in later life, as well as stimulate their imagination and help them to mature emotionally.
      Camp Che-Na-Wah had been founded in 1923 by Ruth’s uncle Sol “Chuck” Amster and her aunt Cornelia Schwartz Amster. Uncle Chuck was the brother of Ruth’s mother, Celia. When Celia was fifteen and a recent high school graduate, she had helped financially to put Chuck through Cornell University. Aunt Cornelia had taken Ruth to concerts and other cultural events throughout her childhood. In their professional lives, Ruth’s uncle and aunt were committed to providing the girls and young women who spent summer months at their camp with the freedom to “experience nature [and] group living and excel beyond their expectations.”
      Every summer from 1937, when she was four, until 1951, when she was eighteen and had completed her first year of college, Ruth Bader spent eight weeks at Camp Che-Na-Wah. Her experiences there were fundamental to the development of her character and leadership skills. She also undertook what would become a lifelong commitment to physical exercise and activity.
      At Camp Che-Na-Wah, Ruth continued to develop in areas she already enjoyed and learned to excel in new ones. She took to the pursuits and routines of her days at camp with enthusiasm and a strong sense of belonging. The campers swam, canoed, rode horseback, participated in dramatics, and worked in arts and crafts. Many years later, when she was Justice Ginsburg and a grandmother, she visited the camp with her grandchildren and went out on the water with them, “while I can still paddle my own canoe,” as she put it. She did remarkably well with the canoe, paddling quickly up and down.
      Ruth was a leader at camp just as she always was at school. She functioned as the camp’s unofficial “rabbi” and was charged with leading her fellow campers in thoughtful prayer at Saturday-morning services. As the “rabbi,” she also gave her fellow campers presentations on important current events. Ruth began to develop her skills as a public speaker during those summers at camp. Her commitment to helping those less fortunate was strengthened and put into action during the organization and implementation of Camp Che-Na-Wah’s annual charitable fundraiser.

By April 21, 2009, when the Supreme Court heard Safford Unified School District v. Redding, that once young, intense girl who had written about justice and fairness and cared deeply about freedom had become a black-robed jurist sitting very straight in her chair in the courtroom. Before Justice Ginsburg and her eight male colleagues ceremoniously entered and took their assigned seats, they had all spent time in their individual chambers—their private office suites—making their final preparations before entering the courtroom. For the last time, they looked over the notes each one of them had taken while reviewing the piles of paperwork that the lawyers for the two sides on the case had sent them. These included the briefs from each side—written, point-by-point arguments supporting the side represented and casting doubt on what the other side argued.
      There were also exhibits, mainly documents such as copies of the school’s policies that were being challenged and of transcripts and decisions from the lower courts. There were also numerous documents called amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs. An amicus curiae brief is a written document that presents an argument for one side or the other in the hope that it will influence the court’s decision. These had been sent to the justices by interested parties and organizations, offering either pro or con arguments related to the case at hand.
      Justice Ginsburg, like her colleagues, was preparing herself to bring up areas of weakness she had found in the arguments of one side or the other, to ask for further clarification of parts of the case that were not clearly presented, and to challenge, if necessary, anything in the written arguments that she found particularly difficult to accept or to understand.
      Before entering the courtroom to hear the day’s oral arguments, the nine justices gathered in the robing room, where each of them had a locker. Special assistants were there to help them on with their traditional black robes. And then each justice shook the hand of every other justice before entering the courtroom.
      On that April day, right in front of the bench, were the tables where Adam Wolf, Savana’s lead attorney, and the attorney for the school district were sitting. The lectern in the center was where each of them would stand, facing the bench, to make their final oral argument to the court. The nine justices were seated according to seniority (the order in which they had been appointed to the court). Chief Justice John Roberts was in the center chair, the senior associate justice to his right, the second senior to his left. The remaining six justices were seated to his right or left, again according to seniority. Savana could see the tiny woman in the black robe with a fancy white collar sitting in the large chair second from the right up on the bench. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the only woman justice at the time, looked serious, almost majestic.
      Savana’s attorney had told her to expect an “active” or “hot” bench—in other words, many interruptions by the justices, who would ask questions of the attorneys and make comments that might reflect their own views on the case. Savana was anticipating that almost all the justices would interrupt the lawyers with lots of questions.
      Even so, Savana didn’t feel prepared for the experience that followed. She knew her own case inside out, of course, and she had very strong feelings about the injustice that had been committed against her. But she had not expected to hear lawyers and Supreme Court justices make jokes about serious matters that were central to her case. “My lawyers had advised me not to make any reactions to anything that was said,” she remembered, “but it was really hard to do when I heard arguments from the other side that made it out to be no big deal or made me look like a delinquent. I sat like a stone and just listened and hoped the judges would see past that.”
      Savana was not the only person troubled by hearing the lawyers argue back and forth with the justices as if the case were a trivial matter not worth serious attention. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, too, found it difficult to stomach the flippant manner in which her eight male colleagues and the male lawyers debated the details of the case.
      After oral argument ended, when the justices discussed the case in conference behind closed doors, this jocular tone continued. As Justice Ginsburg later remembered it, “There were jokes about the boys in the locker room, and the boys unclothed in front of each other, and nobody thought anything of it. I said that thirteen is a vulnerable age for a girl, and a thirteen-year-old girl is not like a thirteen-year-old boy. This is overwhelming humiliation for her. There were no more jokes about boys in the locker room. I suppose my colleagues thought of their daughters, thought of their wives, and realized then that the point I was making was well-taken.”
      This time, Savana won her case. A little less than two months later, on June 25, 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that her rights under the Fourth Amendment had indeed been violated. She had been hoping that Justice Ginsburg “would talk some sense” to her colleagues, who, Savana felt, had “seemed to think being in your underwear was no big deal because they related it to the locker room.” She had been expecting a closely divided vote of five in favor and four against, so when she learned that she had won by eight votes to one, she was overjoyed. She was particularly thrilled with Justice Ginsburg’s additional concurring opinion and her powerful words confirming the majority’s opinion; Justice Ginsburg declared that the assistant principal’s treatment of young Savana was “abusive and it was not reasonable for him to believe that the law permitted it.” Savana was jubilant: “She helped restore my faith in the justice system.”

We can safely assume that when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg strongly urged her male colleagues to step out of their shoes and into Savana’s, she tapped in to both her own experiences as a young girl and her long-held beliefs about justice and fairness. About her fellow justices, she said straightforwardly: “They have never been a thirteen-year-old girl. I don’t think my colleagues, some of them, quite understand.” Fortunately for Savana and for all schoolchildren from then on, Justice Ginsburg had persuaded all but one of the other justices to decide the case in Savana’s favor.

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