An Homage to Ruth Bader Ginsburg: the importance of women on the Supreme Court

An Homage to Ruth Bader Ginsburg: the importance of women on the Supreme Court

An Homage to Ruth Bader Ginsburg: the importance of women on the Supreme Court


When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last year, we lost a true legal leader. She sat on the federal bench for 25 years and in 1993, became the second woman ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Throughout her career, RBG as she was affectionately known, advocated for gender equality, women’s interests and civil rights. She was truly a pioneer.

A founder of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, she once said, “Women’s rights are an essential part of the overall human rights agenda, trained on the equal dignity and ability to live in freedom all people should enjoy.”

But RBG wasn’t just an advocate for women’s rights. She was an advocate for the rights of all people, and it is through that lens that her legacy is perhaps most powerful.

One of her early landmark cases was actually on behalf of a father who was denied Social Security survivor benefits after his wife died. She argued that gender distinctions were inherently unfair – in both directions – and successfully changed the law’s interpretation of and application to gender roles within families.

By being a strong voice, following her instincts and believing that she could contribute something that was missing from the legal sphere, RBG became an American icon. But why does that mean we need women on the Supreme Court?

It’s an easy question and one that many Americans may not relate to, as it feels so far from our daily lives. But it is crucial to understand how trailblazing women change the way our daily lives can be, when they dare to speak up, speak out and stand up for equal access and rights for women.

Women justices, chief justices and majority opinion authors in our nation’s courts can build large coalitions and share different, needed perspectives on legal issues. Studies reveal that women often foster more collaborative, cooperative environments than men. In a judicial context, this leads to greater consensus and moderation.

Justice Ginsburg wanted more women on our nation’s highest Court. In 2015, she spoke at Georgetown University and said she would not be satisfied until the Supreme Court featured nine female justices. She explained that no one questioned when nine men sat on the court. That answer emboldened Americans.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Legal scholars say that women bring different perspectives to court conversations. Although women were considered for the Supreme Court as early as 1930, it took until 1981 when Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to fill a Supreme Court seat. She was the only one until RBG joined her in 1993.

It’s not specifically “female” things that women bring to legal considerations. It’s the difference of voice and perspective and their unique experiences that need to influence decisions affecting the entire nation.

It shouldn’t be a question as to what gender decides law. If all people are bound by the law, then all people should have a voice in determining the details of that law. It seems pretty simple to me!

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Grandparent Rights in Divorce – Here’s the Latest

Grandparent Rights in Divorce – Here’s the Latest

Grandparent Rights in Divorce – Here’s the Latest

The Michigan Supreme Court made a recent landmark statement, sending a case involving grandparents’ rights back to the trial court for further legal proceedings.

The issue at hand: whether the grandparents, whose deceased son’s parental rights were involuntarily terminated, have a right to seek grandparenting time with their grandchildren.

The answer: you bet they do.

Let’s take a step back and look at it from a legal angle. Then I’ll get into the nitty-gritty on this particular case.

The question of whether grandparents have the right to time with their grandchildren was answered affirmatively by the Michigan Supreme Court in 2003, followed by legislative action in 2005 when the Grandparenting Time Bill was signed into law by the governor.

This law is intended to allow grandparents and grandchildren access to each other in appropriate circumstances while still protecting parents’ rights to decide what is best for their children.

So, in order for a grandparent to file a case with the court for grandparenting time, they have to have standing – that means they have to have a legal right to do so granted under state law. (The statute can be found at MCL 722.27b)

One situation where grandparents do have standing is where the child’s parent, who is a child of the grandparents, is deceased.

In this particular Michigan court case (Porter v Hill), the trial court ruled that the grandparents did not have standing because their son’s parental rights were involuntarily terminated prior to his death.

The father may have been a bad enough guy to have his parental rights terminated – but does that mean his parents shouldn’t have the right to see their grandchildren?

It’s a tough question and not one with easy answers. For one, the behaviors of the father may or may not reflect his own parents’ character.

Secondly, the children’s mother sought to keep the kids away from a destructive father – but would knowing his side of the family harm them?

While the mother might think so, sometimes we let emotions drive our decisions. The grandparents in the Porter case kept fighting to see their grandchildren, all the way up to the Michigan Supreme Court, which ultimately decided that under the Child Custody Act, the grandparents do have standing because “a biological parent is encompassed by the term ‘natural parent,’” as defined in the statute, “regardless of whether the biological parent’s parental rights have been terminated.”

The Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower court to decide if grandparenting time will be appropriate; and if it is, then what that grandparenting time will be under the circumstances.

There is no question that grandparents have a huge impact on grandchildren. Children need to know where they come from; connections to relatives from all angles enhance a child’s sense of self and family.

From my experience, there are always two sides to every story. When we’re not personally involved in it, it’s hard to know what the real truth is.

It’s never a bad thing to have a relationship to grandparents unless they themselves have questionable character. Grandparents offer children many positive experiences and a deep understanding of who they are and where they come from.

In this specific case, even though the children’s father died under negative circumstances, and had he lived, he would have been a bad influence, he’s still their father. Children should know where they come from otherwise they spend their entire lives wondering who they are.

In the future, without access to their kin, the children will question that side of their family tree. This way, if appropriate as determined by the court, the children may have the opportunity to know loving, nurturing relatives, and answers, as well.


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