My Own Words

Many of you know that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become a bit of a celebrity. Her sharp wit and incredibly bright brain draw followers to her like moths to flame whether she’s sitting at the opera in Santa Fe or performing her duties on the United States Supreme Court. Given who she is and what her life experience has been, it makes sense that her book, My Own Words, which she wrote with the assistance of Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams, would draw attention, interest, praise and appreciation.

Orderly as always, Justice Ginsburg has organized her book into five parts ranging from her early years, in which she shares some of her writings from as early as elementary school, through her later years while on the bench, about which she includes remarks regarding her relationship with Justice Antonin Scalia (whom she described as a good person with “some very bad ideas”) and the comic Scalia/Ginsburg one-act opera written by composer and librettist Derrick Wang.

But she has also taken time to focus on others — particularly women — who have made impressions on her and society — women such as Gloria Steinem (who later referred to Justice Ginsburg as a “superhero”), Sandra Day O’Conner (the first female Supreme Court Justice who taught Justice Ginsburg that she should “waste no time on anger, regret or resentment, just get the job done”), the five Jewish justices who preceded Justice Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, and Belva Lockwood (the first woman to be allowed admission to the Supreme Court bar). Each vignette is a worthy read and will give you a rich, appreciative glimpse into Justice Ginsburg’s world and world view.

You will find of particular interest the writings and speeches she has crafted during her time on the Supreme Court, including topics such as how the court actually and technically functions, as well as how she and her late husband, Martin Ginsburg, to whom she was notoriously devoted, worked together on a gender discrimination suit that she found so impactful that it ultimately molded her focus and guided her legal career.  Also of interest are her eloquent remarks made both on the day that she was nominated to the Supreme Court (by President Bill Clinton) and on the day of her Senate confirmation hearings.

But the strength of the book, in this author’s opinion, comes from the glimpse given to the reader of who Justice Ginsburg really is — a calm ship in a chaotic, highly-political sea of a city, a woman of extreme patience, and an incredibly good legal strategist with a distinguished career full of legal achievement. Regardless of legal blows thrown or the swirlings of complex legal controversy, Justice Ginsburg has weathered it all using thoughtfulness, intellect, strategy and patience as the four corners of her compass.
Whether you’re a devotee or not, you will enjoy learning more about this bright, one-of-a-kind individual.


Suzanne Landers is the senior lawyer and managing partner in The Landers Firm PLC in Menphis and a member of the Tennessee Bar Journal Editorial Board.   

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