Of saints and heroes
Dorothy Day, cofounder of the Catholic Worker movement, said before her death, in 1980, “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.” Day took on the work of caring for those discarded by a system of power and privilege, speaking directly to that system in word and through nonviolent actions.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg cannot be dismissed as only a hero of the left. She worked with courage and conviction, against a torrent of opposition from those with power and privilege, for laws to protect and manifest in society the higher truth that all human beings are equal.
Thank you, Dorothy. Thank you, Ruth. Presente.
Remembering Ginsburg at Brandeis
In 1996, I had the privilege of escorting Ruth Bader Ginsburg when she received an honorary degree at Brandeis. She had been on the court only three years and was far from the RBG celebrity she would later become. In fact, she struck me as remarkably quiet, especially compared to her garrulous and social husband, Martin Ginsburg. His devotion to her as a woman destined for greatness was clear. And he went out of his way that night to hold forth in ways that protected her from any need to engage in the small talk that she had no interest in. It has stayed with me that, although Justice Ginsburg’s lifelong mission was to combat sex discrimination, she had found a spouse who was more than willing to take a back seat to her. Perhaps that is why, on returning to Brandeis in 2016, she surprised the women students by saying, “One of the challenges is not to react in anger if you think you’re being put down because you are a woman.”
The writer taught legal and political philosophy at Brandeis until 2008.
Friendships that transcended ideology
Many thanks for Kevin Cullen’s wise words on the friendship between Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (“A notorious friendship,” Metro, Sept. 22). Scalia was confirmed by the Senate 98-0 and Ginsburg 96-3. Justice Elena Kagan, who hunted deer and duck with Scalia, 63-37. This is surely an argument to restore the two-thirds supermajority for such consequential decisions rather than to abolish the filibuster and pack the court or the Senate as some now propose.
Days of awe
As a secular Jew, I’ve noticed that the death of Justice Ginsburg and the political firestorm over her succession are happening between Rosh Hashanah, the “Head of the Year,” and Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement”: 10 days called the “Days of Awe.”
Ginsburg was a Jew, and Donald Trump has Jewish grandchildren via the conversion of his daughter Ivanka. Yet Trump’s gleeful and demagogic behavior around appointing a new Supreme Court judge during this time is almost as disrespectful as his jump-shooting rolls of paper towels to Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria, three long years ago.
The whole world is watching.
David J. Weinstein
How long is a ‘lifetime’ appointment?
Supreme Court justices are nominated for life, like all federal judges, per Article III of the US Constitution. But the “lifetime” tenure is less the political issue than the power a justice wields as one-ninth of a coequal branch of the federal government, the judicial.
Since legislative term limits were removed in every state by the Supreme Court in 1995 (a controversial 5-4 ruling that Justice Clarence Thomas is intimating he would like to see revisited), John Dingell and John Conyers both served over 50 years in the House, while Patrick Leahy has been in the Senate for 45 years, Chuck Grassley and Steny Hoyer 39 years each.
While it may be argued a senator is one-hundredth of half of the legislative branch and a congressman one-435th of the other, these senior members are not rank and file. They are all in leadership positions with Nancy Pelosi (33 years) and carry inordinate power on par with Supreme Court justices. By contrast, Clarence Thomas has been on the Supreme Court for 29 years, Stephen Breyer 26, Samuel Alito 14, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg had been on the court for just over 27 years when she died. So in the post-term limits world, we see that House and Senate seats are far more often “lifetime appointments” of greater length than those of Supreme Court justices and arguably of equal consequence.
Democrats should keep their eyes on the prize
When it comes to the replacement of Justice Ginsburg, the Democrats protest too much, and often for the wrong reason. When the Republicans blocked President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, they invoked the “Biden rule,” named for then-Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, which purportedly said that a Supreme Court nomination too close to the election should await the outcome of the election. The Constitution does not provide for a Biden-rule, no more than it requires the person elected president to be of certain moral character or profession, with or without formal education. The Biden rule was nonsense then, and it was nonsense when the Obama nominee was railroaded, and it is now. The Democrats should let Trump nominate and seat his nominee on the bench before the election, so we can refocus our eyes on the prize: to unseat Trump. We can deal with the court when we get back the Senate and have Biden in the White House.
The time has clearly come
You know the time for term limits has come when the Globe editorial board (“Set term limits for Supreme Court justices,” Editorial, Sept. 23) and Jeff Jacoby (“Scrap life terms for Supreme Court justices,” Opinion, Sept. 23) both advocate for it.
Peter G . Hill
Rush to fill RBG’s seat? Bring it on!
While not in the least surprising, the hypocrisy of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s announcement that he would rush to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court with a Trump nominee remains infuriating. However, there is a remedy that would both address this proposed injustice and, one hopes, take on an even bigger problem plaguing us in our polarized political climate. Nowhere is the number of Supreme Court justices limited to nine. Should Joe Biden get elected and the Senate flip to the Democrats, he should rip a page from FDR’s playbook and nominate two new justices in March. Furthermore, he should promise to nominate two more justices every six months until he is presented with a plan by Congress to, once and for all, overhaul and reform the nomination and confirmation process, ridding us of the partisan circus it has become.
It’s too late to stop now
Senator Mitch McConnell’s crass announcement (“Mitch McConnell vows quick vote on next justice; Biden says wait” BostonGlobe.com, Sept. 19), that that he will immediately work to bring the president’s nominee of a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to a Senate vote, despite his 2016 pledge not to confirm a Supreme Court nominee in an election year, spotlights his utter lack of principles. But McConnell’s special brand of unvarnished hypocrisy is not a reason to lose hope. The majesty of Ginsburg’s repeated triumphs, in the face of countless obstacles throughout her long life, gives us reason to believe that her influence will not fade, regardless of this assault on her legacy so soon after her death. This is a woman who tied for first place in her class at Columbia Law School, but received not a single job offer from New York law firms. By the same token, the legendary Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter refused even to interview her for a clerkship. But she went on to become the first director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, to redefine the standards for sex discrimination, and she joined the Supreme Court as the second female justice, where she became a role model for women. This is not the end.