November 17, 2018 – This documentary of the life and career of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) was full of surprises for me, but then I did not know anything about her, except that she is old, is on the Supreme Court, and she broke some ribs in a recent fall.
I had no idea she was such a giant of jurisprudence, dwarfing some of the other justices in her outsize influence on civil rights law. This makes it even sadder in that she is now being outvoted by others on the high court now bravely advancing the rights of the powerful, big government and big business, while shrinking the rights of individuals. Ginsburg's career, on the other hand, is all about promoting equal rights for women and minorities.
This documentary shows that Ginsburg's relentless advocacy for women's rights was born of the discrimination she faced at every stage of her own legal career. Despite the brilliance of her academic career, no law firm in New York City would hire her, just because she is a woman. That is one of the main reasons she ended up in academia, and as a civil rights litigator for the American Civil Liberties Union (she co-founded the Women's Rights Project at the ACLU).
A staggering litany of high-profile civil rights cases won by Ginsburg is reeled off in this documentary, backed by interviews with litigants, co-counsels, biographers and witnesses to history like Gloria Steinem and Nina Totenberg. President Jimmy Carter nominated her for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1980, and President Bill Clinton nominated her for the Supreme Court in 1993.
Ginsburg has become a rock star, and a highly unlikely one due to her small stature and her quiet reserve. According to the film, Ginsburg hides her feelings, doesn't engage in heated arguments, and doesn't engage in small talk, either. Perhaps that makes it all the more unlikely that she would become good friends with an extrovert, conservative stalwart Anton Scalia. Their odd couple friendship is highlighted in the film.
Perhaps the reason Ginsburg (born Joan Ruth Bader; March 15, 1933) and Scalia were friends is that he reminded her of her husband, Martin D. Ginsburg, who, like Ginsburg, was also very gregarious. RBG's husband was a remarkable man in his own right, one of the best tax lawyers in the nation. He enthusiastically supported and promoted his wife's ambitions, and he celebrated her many accomplishments. He was far ahead of his time. He died in 2010.
This documentary also covers Ginsburg's family life, her love of opera, her work schedule and how she regularly unwinds from the stresses of the Supreme Court. We see her in the gym, lifting weights, doing push ups and keeping in shape. I hope she can make it through two more years. This is a very informative film about a fascinating person who will go down in history as a giant in her field. This film rates a B.
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