The court ruled 5 to 4 that Lilly Ledbetter, the lone female supervisor at a tire plant in Gadsden, Ala., did not file her lawsuit against Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. in the timely manner specified by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The decision moved Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to read a dissent from the bench, a usually rare practice that she has now employed twice in the past six weeks to criticize the majority for opinions that she said undermine women’s rights.
Speaking for the three other dissenting justices, Ginsburg’s voice was as precise and emotionless as if she were reading a banking decision, but the words were stinging.
Justice Ginsburg’s style of delivery should come as no surprise to regular visitors to the Court. She’s generally regarded as the most soporific when it comes to reading opinions from the bench.
But Justice Ginsburg’s decision to dissent from the bench is interesting. A number of more hard-core liberals — e.g., Judge Stephen Reinhardt, of the Ninth Circuit — view RBG as insufficiently liberal (or insufficiently outspoken in defense of her liberal views). They see her as something of a disappointment on the SCOTUS, given her pre-robescent background as a crusading lawyer for the ACLU and feminist legal scholar.
But RBG’s vociferous dissents in Ledbetter and in Gonzalez v. Carhart, the partial-birth abortion case from earlier in the Term, raise a question: Could Justice Ginsburg finally be flowering as liberal leader of the Supreme Court?
P.S. To be sure, “flowering” is not a term usually applied to Justice Ginsburg. But you know what we mean.
P.P.S. Among the federal appeals courts, we’d say the Eleventh Circuit has the greatest track record of producing liberal lionesses. E.g., Rosemary Barkett; Phyllis Kravitch.
But there are some noteworthy liberal judicial divas on other circuit courts. E.g., that New England ice queen, Sandra Lynch, of the First Circuit; that luscious Latina, Sonia Sotomayor, of the Second Circuit; the frighteningly brilliant Diane Wood, of the Seventh Circuit; the ancient yet energetic Betty Fletcher, of the Ninth Circuit; and the magically delicious Marsha Berzon, also of the Ninth Circuit.
Over Ginsburg’s Dissent, Court Limits Bias Suits [Washington Post]