Ruth Bader Ginsburg was sworn into the United States Supreme Court August 10, 1993.  That same month, I moved out of my parents’ home and into my first college dormitory.  That month, my dad made sure I had opened my first credit card to account for any emergencies.  I walked into college with my future and possibilities ahead of me to work toward any career path that tempted me and with a full expectation of being equally treated alongside my male classmates. 

Little did I know at the time, that Justice Ginsburg, during the decade I was born, was working tirelessly as an ACLU litigator to pave the path for women to be treated equally under the law.  Because of her work, I could have that credit card, I could pursue job opportunities, and it never had to occur to me that I would not receive the same full benefits as my male counterparts.  I largely took for granted all the benefits of equality I now enjoyed because of her legal work. 

I did not know or realize how important Ruth Bader Ginsburg was to me until much later.  In 1995, when this photo of me was taken in front of the United States Supreme Court, I had decided I would pursue law school as an extension of the work I was doing in the local domestic violence shelter.  By this time there were two women serving on the highest court and in my speech class for our after-dinner speech assignment, Justice Dunne accepted her nomination to the high court. 

It was only after law school and well into my legal career when I started to understand and deeply appreciate the relatively few women role models who were available.  I identified with Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s causes, admired her steady, well-reasoned and tempered approach. To this day I wish I could be more like her and better control my emotions when feeling impassioned.   

Politics aside, when I learned of Justice Ginsburg’s passing, I felt a sadness in my heart I had not yet experienced.   She is the first hero for whom I grieve.  Her death signifies a closing chapter of women’s work done and not to be forgotten. Will her legacy be lost?  Will the generations of women who come next remember Ruth?  Will the lady lawyers of the future continue to be inspired by her? Will they honor her with their legal work going forward? 

May It Please the Court is the traditional opening for attorneys to address the court prior to presenting their oral argument.  As I continue reflecting on the passing of this powerful woman and one of the greatest legal minds I have studied, I see I want my life’s work as a lawyer to be well thought out, steady, full of bravery in my advocacy, and ever mindful of the women and lawyers who would come after me. I want to live a legal life inspired by her and a new whispered mantra may now be “May it please you Ruth.” 

Angela Dunne 

CategoryDoing Divorce
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