Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Most Famous Supreme Court Cases

Few Supreme Court Justices have left a legacy as ideologically coherent as Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The second of only four female justices to be sworn in, Ginsburg was always an ardent defender of women's rights and gender equality.

Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Prior to becoming a federal judge, Ginsburg was a lawyer for the ACLU and a member of its board of directors. In 1980, she was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Ginsburg's powerful voice influenced her colleagues and colored court opinions on a number of issues. Her work has been a driving force in advocating for reproductive rights, gender equality, and fourth amendment rights.

RBG
Justice Ginsburg passed away on Friday. Robin Marchant/Getty

Stenberg v. Carhart

In the case of Stenberg v. Carhart, the court's ruled that a Nebraska law banning all intact dilation and extraction abortions (the method used after miscarriages and for abortions performed after the first trimester) was unconstitutional. In her opinion, which cited both Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Ginsburg argued that the law did not "seek to protect the lives or health of pregnant women."

"A state regulation that 'has the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus, violates the Constitution," she wrote. Ginsburg later cited Stenberg v. Carhart in her dissent against the court's opinion of Gonzalez v. Carhart.

Gonzalez v. Carhart

In its ruling on Gonzalez v. Carhart, the Supreme Court upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. In her dissent, Ginsburg called the decision "alarming." She decried the ruling, stating that the decision banned "a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists."

She further took Congress to task for passing the legislation in the first place, citing ample evidence that they did so based on dubious "expert" testimony. "[N]one of the six physicians who testified before Congress had ever performed an intact D&E. Several did not provide abortion services at all; and one was not even an
obgyn. . . . [T]he oral testimony before Congress was not only unbalanced, but intentionally polemic," she wrote.

United States v. Virginia

Ginsburg authored the court's opinion for United States v. Virginia, a case which ended the Virginia Military Institute's single sex admission policy. The court's ruling spoke to VMI's rigorous educational model and philosophy of producing "citizen soldiers," and found that the institution must admit suitable women. In her opinion, Ginsburg scathingly struck down VMI's denial of women to train in the military academy. "Surely that goal is great enough to accommodate women, who today count as citizens in our American democracy equal in stature to men," she wrote.

Safford Unified School District v. Redding

In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that a strip search of a 13-year-old student violated her fourth amendment rights. In an interview with USA Today, Ginsburg said she found her fellow Justices' treatment of the student to be unfair. "They have never been a 13-year-old girl. It's a very sensitive age for a girl. I didn't think that my colleagues, some of them, quite understood." In her opinion, she called the school's principal "abusive" and said, "It was not reasonable for him to believe that the law permitted [the search]."

Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company

In this case, a retired Goodyear employee claimed that she was receiving significantly less pay than her male counterparts. The court dismissed the case, in part due to the fact that Ledbetter had continued to work at Goodyear for a number of years despite the unfair salary differences. Ginsburg's dissent highlighted the issue of pay disparity at large.

"Pay disparities often occur, as they did in Ledbetter's case, in small increments; cause to suspect that discrimination is at work develops only over time. Comparative pay information, moreover, is often hidden from the employee's view," she wrote. "Her initial readiness to give her employer the benefit of the doubt should not preclude her from later challenging the then current and continuing payment of a wage depressed on account of her sex."