As Washington, D.C., and the world mourn the passing of the second woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, people everywhere are remembering the remarkable Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Former Minnesota Judge Sheryl Ramstad says, “She was only five feet tall, but she was a giant in her own right. She was a real trailblazer. She started law school with a 14-month-old child. In that day and age, that was unheard of. She overcame obstacle upon obstacle.”
Ramstad adds that when people got to know Ginsburg, “They fell in love with her as a person, she really humanized the Supreme Court, more than other justices have done.” Especially noteworthy was her relationship with Justice Antonin Scalia, a friendship that earned them the moniker “the odd couple.” The former judge and Department of Corrections commissioner says, “That is so missing in political circles today.”
Ramstad says Ginsburg’s legacy includes being responsible for having over 200 laws struck down on the basis of discrimination and notes that, “To win five out of six cases before the Supreme Court is unheard of – and for a woman to do that in that era? Also unheard of.”
From a moderate Republican political family, Ramstad’s brother is former Congressman Jim Ramstad, and she sees a tough road ahead on Ginsburg’s replacement: “I think it’s going to become very nasty. I think it’ll create rifts that cannot heal. It’s so unfortunate the court has become so politicized that we can’t rise above to see who’s in the best interest overall.”
Hennepin County’s Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarity – who was put on paid leave in December 2019 and faces reappointment on September 30, 2020 – has made a career out of challenging the status quo. In this article from the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, journalist Mel Reeves wonders, “Will challenging the system’s fairness when it comes to issues of racial equity exact a price on her career?”
Prosecutor turned federal judge, Miles Lord was called an activist judge by his critics. Listen to this conversation from 1992 in which Lord discusses the dangers of Republicans on the Supreme Court, and the important cases in his career and the impact they had, including the Dalkon shield case against the A. H. Robins Company, and the environmental case against Reserve Mining Company, where Lord forced Reserve to stop dumping pollutants into Lake Superior.
A surge of minority voices has responded to the police killing of George Floyd. In the weeks since Floyd uttered, “I can’t breathe,” as ex-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin pressed down on his neck, a new collective of individuals is taking action by running for office, engaging in politics and stirring change among youth. But is the momentum a movement or a moment?