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Notorious RBG on Recent SCOTUS Cases and Her Love for Gangsta Rap

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on August 03, 2015 11:59 AM

Over the last few years, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has emerged as an unexpected pop culture superstar. For court watchers, Ginsburg has long been a strong voice for feminism and liberalism on the bench, but lately she has gained celebrity status among the general public, making fans among politically minded youth sixty years her junior.

Justice Ginsburg reminded us that her celebrity was well deserved the other day, in comments she made while speaking at Duke University School of Law. Her talk was a classic mix of Supreme Court insider views, passionate political conviction, and bits of pop culture. The best revelation? The Notorious R.B.G. has been studying up on gangsta rap.

To All the Ladies in the Place With Style and Grace

Yes, Ginsburg loves it when you call her Big Poppa. The Justice was recently nicknamed "The Notorious R.B.G.," after 90's rap superstar Christopher Wallace, better known by his noms de stage, Biggie Smalls or the Notorious B.I.G. The nickname spread like wildfire after NYU Law student Shana Knizhnik started a Ginsburg-themed blog with the same name.

The Justice has embraced her notoriety. The New York Times' Adam Liptak reports that Ginsburg began looking into Biggie after she learned of the nickname. Though opera remains on of Ginsburg's main passions, she's found something to connect with in the king of East Coast gangsta rap. "Both of us were born and raised in Brooklyn," she told the crowd at Duke.

Controversial Decisions

More substantively, Ginsburg spoke freely and expansively about controversial decisions that have come out of the Court in the past years. The Court's worst decision during her time on the bench was Citizens United, Ginsburg said. That decision stood out "because of what has happened to elections in the United States and the huge amount of money it takes to run for office." Indeed, according to the Times, super PACs, created as a result of Citizens United, are expected to spend up to $10 billion to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Ginsburg didn't just focus on the negative, however. Looking forward, she's more than ready to vote to strike down the death penalty, Liptak reports, which she and Justice Breyer indicated in one of the final dissents of the last term. She may have a chance to make that vote -- almost certainly a minority one -- when the Court returns to several death penalty oral arguments this October.

Ginsburg also offered praise for Justice Kennedy's opinion in Obergefell, striking down gay marriage bans. The Justice said that "it was more powerful to have a single opinion" in that case. That "speak with one voice" strategy has been credited with strengthening the Court's liberal wing and Ginsburg has been central in enforcing it.

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