Ruth Bader Ginsburg


She shared some of her thoughts on the law at a symposium held in her honor at Moritz College of Law in Columbus, Ohio.

On SCOTUS referring to foreign law in its decisions:

“I frankly don’t understand all the brouhaha lately from Congress and even from some of my colleagues about referring to foreign law.” […]

The court’s more conservative members — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — oppose the citation of foreign law in constitutional cases.

“If we’re relying on a decision from a German judge about what our Constitution means, no president accountable to the people appointed that judge and no Senate accountable to the people confirmed that judge,” Chief Justice Roberts said at his confirmation hearing. “And yet he’s playing a role in shaping the law that binds the people in this country.”

Justice Ginsburg said the controversy was based on the misunderstanding that citing a foreign precedent means the court considers itself bound by foreign law as opposed to merely being influenced by such power as its reasoning holds.

“Why shouldn’t we look to the wisdom of a judge from abroad with at least as much ease as we would read a law review article written by a professor?” she asked.

I wonder if Justice Ginsburg will be accused of “bashing America” for this:

She added that the failure to engage foreign decisions had resulted in diminished influence for the United States Supreme Court.

The Canadian Supreme Court, she said, is “probably cited more widely abroad than the U.S. Supreme Court.” There is one reason for that, she said: “You will not be listened to if you don’t listen to others.”

Justice Roberts praised her work ethic:

In a videotaped tribute, Chief Justice Roberts described Justice Ginsburg’s work habits — including her “total disregard for the normal day-night work schedule adhered to by everyone else since the beginning of recorded history” — and congratulated her for reaching what he said was the midpoint of her career on the court.

On torture:

In her remarks, Justice Ginsburg discussed a decision by the Israeli Supreme Court concerning the use of torture to obtain information from people suspected of terrorism.

“The police think that a suspect they have apprehended knows where and when a bomb is going to go off,” she said, describing the question presented in the case. “Can the police use torture to extract that information? And in an eloquent decision by Aharon Barak, then the chief justice of Israel, the court said: ‘Torture? Never.’ ”

The message of the decision, Justice Ginsburg said, was “that we could hand our enemies no greater victory than to come to look like that enemy in our disregard for human dignity.” Then she asked, “Now why should I not read that opinion and be affected by its tremendous persuasive value?”

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