Civil Liberties Students Attend an Interview with Justice Ginsburg

Seniors in the Civil Liberties and Elections courses had the extraordinary opportunity to see Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speak at Notre Dame University on Monday, September 12. History teacher Jeanne Barr invited students as soon as she learned about the opportunity, explaining how the event connected to class reading as well as the contentious presidential race dominating the news:

“Needless to say, this is a rare opportunity—it’s unclear how much longer Justice Ginsburg will be able to serve (she’s 83 years old). She was a feminist icon long before she joined the court—as  we continue to read The Nine, [author] Toobin will show us how she reshaped gender laws during her many years as an attorney arguing cases before the Court before she was invited to join it. More recently, she made headlines this summer when she made disparaging comments about Donald Trump to a reporter. Many thought her remarks were inappropriate, and she later said she regretted her comments—I’m thinking she might avoid that topic on Monday? This is all to say that this will be a really cool opportunity that none of us may get again.”

Eleven students chose to attend the after-school field trip, cheerfully undertaking the two-hour bus ride to South Bend to witness Ann C. Williams, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, interview Justice Ginsburg. The conversation touched on Ginsburg’s role in reshaping gender laws in the U.S., how difficult she finds death penalty cases and her surprising emergence as a pop-culture icon, the Notorious RBG.

Students were deeply impressed. Claire Rosenberg said, “It was incredibly inspirational!” Katrina Holceker added, “It was such an amazing experience to hear Justice Ginsburg speak. It was cool how she told us anecdotes about her life and challenges she had to overcome to get to where she is today, especially gender stereotypes.” Will Polsky noted, “As a trailblazer for women in the court as well as a force for women’s rights in general, her actions and accomplishments are going to be remembered as extremely monumental. We were so lucky to be able to see her.” And from Michael Daalder: “It’s not every day that you get to see a sitting justice on the Supreme Court. It was truly an amazing experience to see Ruth Bader Ginsburg, really the Notorious RBG, and learn about her fascinating life’s work, both on and off the Supreme Court. She is an inspiration.” 

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