Martin Ginsburg — a leading tax lawyer and law professor, and the husband of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — passed away earlier today. He was 78. According to a statement released by the Court, he passed away at home, from complications of metastatic cancer.
Marty Ginsburg was known in Supreme Court circles as Justice Ginsburg’s secret weapon. Justice Ginsburg herself can sometimes be shy, awkward, and introverted, but her husband was gregarious, charming, and a great entertainer. He was a talented chef and would perform the culinary honors at dinners for Supreme Court justices and their spouses. He would also cook for RBG’s clerks each Term.
He was widely noted for his great sense of humor….
Check out, for example, Marty Ginsburg’s faculty biography at Georgetown Law, where he taught tax law for many years. The bio explains that he moved to Washington “when his wife got a good job here” — a reference to his wife’s appointment to the D.C. Circuit, and a bit of humorous understatement. Being appointed to the exalted U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is like touching the face of God.
The bio concludes with this tongue-in-cheek quip:
Professor Ginsburg is co-author, with Jack S. Levin of Chicago, of Mergers, Acquisitions, and Buyouts, a semi-annually updated treatise which addresses tax and other aspects of this exciting subject. The portions of the treatise written by Professor Ginsburg are, he is certain, easily identified and quite superb.
See also this 2009 speech by Justice Ginsburg, entitled “The Lighter Side of Life at the Supreme Court,” in which she described how her husband tried to help her out in chambers once:
Early in 1994, Justice Scalia and I traveled to India for a judicial exchange. In my absence, my spouse tested his conviction that my mail could be handled more efficiently. He visited chambers, checked the incoming correspondence, grouped the requests into a dozen or so categories, and devised an all-purpose response for my secretaries’ signature. When I returned, he gave me the form, which to this day he regards as a model of utility and grace. I will read a few parts of the letter my husband composed. You may judge for yourself its usefulness and grace.
“You recently wrote Justice Ginsburg. She would respond personally if she could, but (as Frederick told Mabel in Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance) she is not able. Incoming mail reached flood levels months ago and shows no sign of receding.”
“To help the Justice stay above water, we have endeavored to explain why she cannot do what you have asked her to do. Please refer to the paragraph below with the caption that best fits your request.”
“Favorite Recipes. The Justice was expelled from the kitchen nearly three decades ago by her food-loving children. She no longer cooks and the one recipe from her youth, tuna fish casserole, is nobody’s favorite.”
“Photograph. Justice Ginsburg is flattered, indeed amazed, by the number of requests for her photograph. She is now 61 years of age — ah, those were the days! — and understandably keeps no supply.”
“Are We Related? The birth names of the Justice’s parents are Bader and Amster. Many who bear those names have written, giving details of origin and immigration. While the information is engrossing, you and she probably are not related within any reasonable degree of consanguinity. Justice Ginsburg knows, or knew, all of the issue of all in her family fortunate enough to make their way to the U.S.A.”
Alas, Justice Ginsburg decided against using her husband’s humorous form letter: “My secretaries, you will not be surprised to learn, vetoed my husband’s letter, and in the ensuing years they have managed to cope with the mail flood through measures more sympathique.”
In addition to cooking the bacon, Mr. Ginsburg was quite good at bringing it home. Thanks in part to his private practice as a tax lawyer, at the firms of Weil Gotshal and Fried Frank, the Ginsburgs did very well for themselves. When the justices file their financial disclosure forms, Ruth Bader Ginsburg generally takes the top spot, with assets in the tens of millions. Her latest disclosure, released earlier this month, revealed assets worth as much as $45 million.
Martin Ginsburg’s passing is undoubtedly a great loss to both Justice Ginsburg, to whom he was married for 56 years (their anniversary was last week), and to the tax bar, of which he was a leading member for decades. We extend our deepest condolences and sympathies to Justice Ginsburg and the Ginsburg family.
Martin Ginsburg, Justice’s Husband, Dies [AP via NYT]
Marty Ginsburg Has Died [SCOTUSblog]
Faculty Bio: Martin D. Ginsburg [Georgetown University Law Center]
The Lighter Side of Life at the United States Supreme Court [Supreme Court of the United States]