The XX Factor

Ginsburg on Why the Supreme Court Needs Another Woman

Dahlia , Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would surely agree with you that it’s long past time to rub out the equation that a woman justice equals a second-rate one. To make the case for why she needs a female colleague (or colleagues), she took the unusual step of talking about a case that’s just been argued and not yet decided-the one involving the strip search of 13-year-old Savanna Redding. You wrote vividly about Ginsburg’s apparent distress at the clueless reactions of some of the men on the court at oral argument. This week Ginsburg said as much to Joan Biskupic of USA Today . “They have never been a 13-year-old girl,” the justice said. “It’s a very sensitive age for a girl. I didn’t think that my colleagues, some of them, quite understood.”

Ginsburg also remembered being ignored by male lawyers at meetings in the 1960s and 1970s, only to have a man present repeat her point, and get a response. And incredibly, she feels the same way even now: “It can happen even in the conferences in the court. When I will say something-and I don’t think I’m a confused speaker-and it isn’t until somebody else says it that everyone will focus on the point.” Biskupic writes: “It was a revealing observation from a justice who generally praises her male colleagues, some of whom are close friends.” No kidding.

Ginsburg also directly addressed the question of what women bring to the bench, as women:

“You know the line that Sandra [Day O’Connor] and I keep repeating … that ‘at the end of the day, a wise old man and a wise old woman reach the same judgment’? But there are perceptions that we have because we are women. It’s a subtle influence. We can be sensitive to things that are said in draft opinions that (male justices) are not aware can be offensive.”

The differences between male and female justices, she said, are “seldom in the outcome.” But then, she added, “it is sometimes in the outcome.”

PS: Ann Althouse (U. Wisconsin law prof, blogger extraordinaire) discusses diversity on the court.