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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on civil liberties and privacy

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg discusses the opinion she’s written that has done the most to advance civil liberties.
United States v Virginia, Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan, M.L.B. v. S.L.J., Stenberg v Carhart.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in conversation with Jeffrey Rosen of the National Constitution Center.

Created by Aspen Institute.

Video transcript

I'm Jeffrey Rosen from the National Constitution Center in the New Republic and i'm here with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the lawyers lounge of the Supreme Court what is the majority opinion or dissent that you've written that you think has done the most to advance civil liberties Jeff it's like saying which of my four grandchildren who I prefer there have been so many well in in the women's rights are you can think of the Virginia Military Institute case so many people said to me why would women want to go to that school I would perhaps you a man wouldn't either but there are women who are fully ready willing and able to have that warm of education so why should they be held back by artificial barriers I must say that the VMI case was preceded many years earlier by justice O'Connor's decision a very first year on the bench in a case called Mississippi University for women against Hogan that was a case about a man who wanted to go to Mississippi University for women to take nursing it was the best nursing school in the area but he couldn't go because he was a man saying with VMI later on there was a decision on the simplified it didn't get much press it's called MLB the court's precedent was if you are too poor to afford counsel or to afford a transcript in a felony case the state must provide legal assistance for you Amobi was a woman who was facing a deprivation of parental rights receiving she was charged by the state with being an unfit mother she lost in the first instance and she wanted to appeal but the state's rule was to appeal you must purchase a transcript and she didn't have funds to paper transcript it was technically a civil case but I was able to persuade a majority of the court that depriving parent of parental status is as devastating as a criminal conviction and so the court decided if she can't get an appeal without a transcript and the state must give her the transcript that was changing the line the rigid separation of criminal cases on the one hand with a right to paid counsel paid by the state transcript paid by the state in civil cases where you do not have those rights you have to be able to pay so I thought MLB was a significant case in that regard getting what to think about what is the impact of being declared a non-parent on a woman like MLB well he's devastating much worse than six months in jail and Ford Accenture card and Steinberg doesn't is quite memorable the carhartt descent is the partial birth abortion chase and there were concern me about the courts attitude they were looking at the woman as not really an adult individual individual the opinion said the woman will live to regret her choice that was not anything that this court sort of thought or said women are fully adult they're able to make decisions about their own lives course no less than men are so yes I thought that in car ha the court was way out of line it was a new form of we have to protect the woman against her only judgment it's galvanizing to hear you speak so passionately and there's been a notable change in your decisions in your public appearances since you became senior associate justice when you were appointed Benny called you a minimalist of judges judge and said you were cautious but in recent years you've really found her voice and have been become a a liberal icon across the country why did you change a Jeff I don't think I changed I think the composition of the court changed think of 2006 when justice O'Connor left us every case in which the court / 4 and I was in the fall if justice O'Connor had remained I would have been in the fine so I don't think that my jurisprudence has changed but the issues coming before the court are getting a different perception than they had when justice O'Connor was a member and then I had a very good model to follow when we divided 52 for the most senior member was almost always justice Stevens jesse stevens was very fair in assigning descents I said add to that he took kept most of them himself so that was in citizens united and shall reach out either Voting Rights Act case it was a consensus that I should write both the sense just as justice Stevens wrote the dissent in Citizens United so I tried to be fair so no one ends up with dull cases while another one has exciting cases and I do take will be I suppose most most watched cases