As the nation mourns the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, those she inspired are reflecting on the legacy she leaves behind.
Vermont Supreme Court Justice Beth Robinson said Ginsburg was a role model who inspired her own work on more than one occasion. Robinson has served on the Vermont Supreme Court since 2011, and her career as a lawyer included involvement in a landmark 1999 case that led to Vermont becoming the first state to enact civil unions.
“It’s a profoundly sad night, we’ve lost a trailblazer whom we all owe a tremendous amount of gratitude,” Justice Robinson said. “I looked at her career as a lawyer as an inspiration, I’ve cited cases she had litigated in my own work, I’ve cited cases she has decided as a Supreme Court Justice.”
Ginsburg spent 27 years on the U.S. Supreme Court, and before that, her work as a lawyer was critical in advancing women’s rights. She argued six landmark cases before the Supreme Court in the 1970s, winning five.
“It’s stunning to me that she had a career as an advocate that profoundly changed the legal landscape, and then she went on to have a career as a Supreme Court Justice that likewise made an impact on the legal landscape,” Robinson said. “Very few people have one act with that kind of impact – the fact she had two is astounding.”
Health issues took a toll on Ginsburg in her later years on the high court, but she pushed through them to serve on the bench well into her 80s. She fought cancer five times, and was hospitalized for falls that resulted in broken ribs. Justice Robinson said resilience is a trait Ginsburg became well-acquainted with early in her prolific career.
“It’s not surprising when you think about her early career,” Justice Robinson said. “She overcame obstacles that most of us have never had to encounter, and a daily barrage of slights. She soldiered through that so people like me didn’t have to.”
The woman many know simply as ‘RBG’ was an iconic figure, particularly among younger Americans for her work in women’s rights, civil rights and other key issues.
Justice Robinson said Ginsburg’s legacy will live on through those she’s inspired.
“I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to her regardless of whether we’re lawyers, but as a lawyer, she’s had a special impact both as a role model and someone who litigated cases and decided on cases I relied on in my own career.”
Ginsburg died of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer. She was 87.