By Helen Baddour
NCAJ Women’s Caucus Chair 2020-2021
On Friday evening, after learning of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, I called and texted friends and family until I could no longer keep my eyes open. The words that gave me most comfort came from writer and activist, Glennon Doyle.
Thank you for fighting for us so brilliantly, relentlessly, creatively, and fiercely – and for so long.
Tonight, we mourn.
Tomorrow, we fight.
Against the odds, a tiny Jewish woman named Ruth Bader Ginsburg from Brooklyn, New York became a lawyer in 1959. Just like us, members of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, Ginsburg fought for individuals. In doing so, she fought for us all, and won. RBG took her skills as a trial lawyer, brief writer, and public speaker and advocated for rights we take for granted today. Thanks to Justice Ginsburg, members of this Women’s Caucus can obtain a mortgage or a checking account without a male co-signer. We can start our own law firms, get a credit card, and obtain a business loan without a male co-signer. And we don’t have to worry about being fired when we become pregnant. The list goes on and on.
When she reached the United States Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg used her voice and skills to either bring her colleagues over to her side or to write scathing yet eloquent dissents. She stayed focused, never letting up, on equal justice for all. The “Notorious RBG.” Now, little girls dress up as her for Halloween. Puppies and kittens are named for her. You can find her face on coffee mugs, socks, and T-shirts. The tiny woman from Brooklyn became a giant, a super hero, for the ages.
Make no mistake, we have a lot of work to do. RBG has high expectations for us. In the preface of her biography, “My Own Words,” Justice Ginsburg quotes her “brave colleague,” Justice Sandra Day O’Conner:
For both men and women the first step in getting power is to become visible to others, and then to put on an impressive show. . . . As women achieve power, the barriers will fall. As society sees what women can do, as women see what women can do, there will be more women out there doing things, and we’ll all be better off for it.
Justice Ginsburg said “I heartily concur in that expectation.”
It is true, Justice Ginsburg’s dream was to see nine women justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. But despite who sits on our high court or any court in our judicial system, we have the opportunity as advocates to make our community, our society, a little better. As women, we have a duty to pick up Justice Ginsburg’s torch and continue her fight.
The job is not glamorous. Next time you find yourself at the end of a long day, sitting alone at your kitchen table with your deposition notes, a trial argument, or appellate brief, think of Justice Ginsburg. Picture her at her own desk in the wee hours of the morning fine tuning an argument or opinion. Think about her in that purple “Super Diva!” sweatshirt lifting weights, holding planks, and cranking out 20 pushups per day. Imagine her walking through the doors of the United States Supreme Court on the afternoon of her first oral argument. Remember the time, energy, and work she poured into that moment.
My dear colleagues, we honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg by putting in the work and never letting up.
Today, tomorrow, forever – we fight.