RUTH BADER GINSBURG, A Life, by Jane Sherron De Hart is an in-depth scholarly biography and an academic journey for the reader. The book, completed a year before the justice’s death, is an intimate look at the life of RBG that quickly transforms into a study of the workings of the Supreme Court, its personalities, and of course the major cases with which RBG was intimately involved. In many ways the book is a study of cultural change in America during RBG’s tenure on the court.
My takeaway is that SCOTUS is anything but impartial and that all important decisions are influenced to varying degrees by the personal heritage and deeply held views of individual justices. The term “strict constructionist” is often used to rationalize deep personal beliefs, while “loose interpretation,” can work toward a more liberal view of the law. “Social movements in dialogue with public opinion forge new understandings of the Constitution’s meaning even as contestation continues.”
Yes, all the famous cases are here in detail. Roe v. Wade, Bush v. Gore, Brown v. Board of Education, Lilly Ledbetter, Plessy, VMI, Violence Against Women’s Act, Partial Birth Abortion, Voting Rights Act, Citizens United and more and more and more. A total of 554 pages and hundreds of defining notes, and with De Hart’s brilliant research every single word counts. I left these pages and cases convinced that SCOTUS is and always has been a political body. It is a human organization and does not reside in a rarified atmosphere set apart from the ever-changing values of society. Of course, you may not agree, but what a delightful discussion for your book club.
RUTH BADER GINSBURG, A life, is a wonderful personal insight into a remarkable woman and a brilliant study of exactly how the Supreme Court deliberates and decides.