Category Archives: Entertainment

Book Review: My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg

My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Law Library Stacks: KF8745 .G56 A3 2016
Book Review by Eric Taylor, Evening Reference Librarian

My Own Words is a delightful read.  The words and stories are hers.  A woman ahead of her time.  Lucky in love to have met life partner, Marty, who was her champion in all things.  The strong work ethic and independent streak she got from her mom.  A mother herself juggling work-life balance.  An avid reader from early on who also happens to love opera.  These are some of the pictures her stories paint.

Arranged in five Parts, the book includes editorials, speeches, tributes, remarks on some of the major cases of our era, and essays on the work of a Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States.  Each Part, and their attending chapters are set up with short introductions by Justice Ginsburg’s official biographers, Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams.

The collection begins with an editorial she wrote for her school newspaper in 8th grade.  The year is 1946, just after WWII, and she writes: “Since the beginning of time, the world has known four great documents, great because of all the benefits to humanity which came about as a result of their fine ideals and principles.”  She is speaking about the Ten Commandments, Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence.  “And now we have a fifth great document, the Charter of the United Nations.”

One piece not written by Ruth, but rather her husband, Marty, comes in the form of remarks he made as he introduced the Honorable Ruth Ginsburg on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellowship Program at Georgetown University Law Center in 2003.  A man full of wit and good humor, and as you can tell by his comments, lots of love and admiration for his wife.

The legal profession was not populated by many women when she graduated from Columbia Law School in 1959.  She was a trailblazer, but by no means alone.  In Part Two, she offers tribute to other women who have led the way.  These include historical figures such as Belva Ann Lockwood, the first woman to argue a case before the nine Justices, and the brave Anne Frank, as well as, contemporaries like Sandra Day O’Connor, and Gloria Steinem.  Ginsburg writes of Justice O’Connor’s approach to all things: “Waste no time on anger, regret or resentment, just get the job done.”

The 1970s saw Ruth Bader Ginsburg use her legal skills to advocate and advance the cause of women as equals before the law.  The decade was very productive for her, and many other women, as gains were made legally and socially.  The chapters in Part Three speak to her role in this movement, one of which, “The Frontiero Reply Brief” marked her first oral argument before the Supreme Court in 1973.  That same year she wrote in the ABA Journal “The Need for the Equal Rights Amendment.”  Despite the ERA’s failure in 1982 three states short of ratification, the cause of gender equality had moved forward.

President Jimmy Carter appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 1980.  President Bill Clinton then appointed her to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993.  The selections in Part Four include her Rose Garden Nomination Acceptance Speech, and Opening Statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Part Five – The Justice on Judging and Justice – is by far the longest in the book and begins with “Workways of the Supreme Court” in which Justice Ginsburg describes the “procedures at my workplace.”  She explains “one cannot get a firm grasp on the substance of our decisions without some grounding in the rules, practices, and traditions that frame our decisionmaking.”  The next two chapters speak to “Judicial Independence” and the work of the Chief Justice in her “Tribute to Chief Justice Rehnquist.”

The chapters that follow return to two themes so very central to this book: human rights and the administration of justice.  In “Human Dignity and Equal Justice Under Law,” Justice Ginsburg speaks about Brown v. Board, and Loving v. Virginia to reflect on the pivotal role these decisions have had in advancing the cause of freedom and equal protection under law for all.  Loving was decided by unanimous decision, but many others are not.  Part Five also includes a section on the role of dissenting opinions, and the bench dissent.  In her own words, you can read seven of her recent bench dissents in cases such as Ledbetter, Sebelius, and Hobby Lobby.

No review would be complete without a story about Ruth’s love for the opera.  It is well known she and Justice Antonin Scalia shared this passion.  Composer Derrick Wang penned “Scalia/Ginsburg: A (Gentle) Parody of Operatic Proportions” a comedy in one act inspired by the two Justices’ opinions and the operatic precedent of Handel, Mozart, Verdi, Bizet, Sullivan, Puccini, Strauss, et al. (see 38 Columbia Journal of Law and Arts 237 (2015)).  She writes in preface “If I could choose the talent I would most like to have, it would be a glorious voice.”

This collection of short stories shine a light on the arc of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life and career.  Each one is unique, special, and enjoyable to read in their place.  Together they form a much fuller picture of one of the most intelligent, worldwise, and thought-provoking jurists of our time.  Readers can delight in the fact there is a full-length biography underway to be published when the time is ripe.

“Follow the Chicken”: a transcript and video of law gone weird

 

As with all careers, there are times when lawyers must question their professional choices. I think that the attorneys involved in this deposition with the man who ‘follows the chicken’ most certainly had a few of those moments, though they probably got a few laughs out of it as well. The New York Times, too, found some humor in this depo, having actors play out the story that the attorneys were trying to scratch out of their man.

Enjoy, and breathe a sigh of relief that you didn’t take part in questioning this gentleman.

 

CA District Court Invalidates “Happy Birthday” Copyright

Yesterday, a U.S. District Court for the Central District of California judge ruled that the long-claimed copyright in the song, “Happy Birthday” is invalid.

From the New York Times:

The decision, by Judge George H. King of United States District Court in Los Angeles, is a blow to the music publisher Warner/Chappell and its parent company, the Warner Music Group, which have controlled the song since 1988 and reportedly still collect some $2 million annually in licensing fees for it.

If the judge’s ruling stands, “Happy Birthday to You” would become part of the public domain. “Since no one else has ever claimed to own the copyright, we believe that as a practical matter, this means the song is public property,” said Mark C. Rifkin, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

 

 

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre Takes on a Legal Theme with “Trying”

Check out JS Online for a review of the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre production, Trying, “about a crusty and cranky old lawyer butting heads with a determined secretary from the Canadian prairies.”
From the MCT Web site:

Georgetown, November 1967. Cantankerous Judge Francis Biddle, once Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Attorney General, must hire yet another new secretary or risk leaving his life’s work unfinished. Enter Sarah Schorr, a Saskatchewan prairie girl who endures his ornery, elitist behavior to help the judge complete his remarkable memoirs.
TRYING is an endearing tale about two wary individuals overcoming generational and class differences in their tumultuous journey toward friendship – a heartwarming story for the holidays.

Trying runs November 15th through December 16th at the Studio Theatre. Tickets are available online.