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Justice Ginsburg Rights the Past at Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference

By Robyn Hagan Cain on August 25, 2011 10:02 AM

In college, we once represented Indonesia at the National Model United Nations Conference. Throughout the conference, students from Germany kept asking us, "Why are you killing people in East Timor?" The crazy thing was that we weren't killing people; we weren't actually from Indonesia. But the German kids, who were firmly committed to role playing, kept glaring at us as though we condoned genocide.

It was awkward.

We suspect that the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference was equally uncomfortable for whoever had to argue that women should not be admitted to the Illinois bar in front of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during the conference's Bradwell v. State of Illinois re-enactment.

This wasn't Justice Ginsburg's first stab at a Bradwell re-enactment either; in 1998, she argued on Bradwell's behalf at a Georgetown University Law Center moot court retrying the case while then-Attorney General Janet Reno stood in as the Chief Justice.

Like a time traveler in a judicial version of Quantum Leap, Justice Ginsburg righted gender-based discrimination wrongs this time, and ruled at the conference that Bradwell's application to the Illinois State Bar should be granted.

Since Justice Ginsburg's verdict came 140 years too late to help Bradwell, she also used the opportunity to discuss gender-based discrimination. Ginsburg told the group, "If I had been born a generation earlier, my arguments would have fallen on deaf ears. It was the women's movement ... that made it possible for the Supreme Court to do what it did," reports Sign On San Diego.

Speakers at the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference noted that, despite progress, there is an ongoing struggle to overcome gender-based discrimination in the legal field. Among legal professionals employed in the Ninth Circuit, women only represent 31 percent of attorneys, 26 percent of appellate judges, and 22 percent of district judges.

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