Dear NYLS Community,
We write tonight with heavy hearts as the nation processes the loss of one of its most brilliant and accomplished jurists. This news is especially painful because it comes on Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a deeply humanizing presence on the Supreme Court. Though she achieved international renown, she remained highly accessible, empathetic, and focused on the lives and perspectives of those affected by the cases before her. Her commitment to individual rights and equality reflected her belief in our country’s democratic ideals and in the rule of law. Justice Ginsburg gave us faith in the Court, which so often was the final arbiter of our nation’s deepest controversies.
Her accomplishments and legacy don’t just rest on historic judicial impact. So many future lawyers have looked up to her as their role model of what a leader in our profession and society should do.
We both saw this firsthand when, in February 2018, Justice Ginsburg visited New York Law School to speak at the Sidney Shainwald Public Interest Lecture, a series established by NYLS Trustee Emerita Sybil Shainwald ’76. Her presence on campus drew the largest crowd for a single event in the Law School’s history. Hundreds of NYLS students and alumni eagerly awaited the chance to greet her and to hear her reflections on her life and career. Justice Ginsburg honored their presence by taking the time to personally greet and speak with them. Though a lecture by name, the event was an open, often humorous conversation between Justice Ginsburg and Professor Nadine Strossen, her longtime friend and the Immediate Past President of the American Civil Liberties Union (1991–2008).
Among many other topics, the pair spoke about the growing political divisions that in recent years have hampered the judicial nomination process. Professor Strossen noted that Justice Ginsburg still called the U.S. Supreme Court the “most collegial” place she had ever worked.
“We know that institutions can’t work as well for the people of the United States if we don’t respect and, in most cases, genuinely like each other,” Justice Ginsburg said. “I can tell you why I regard my colleagues in some ways as family,” she added. “During my tenure, I have had two bouts with cancer. Both times, my colleagues rallied around me and made it possible to get through those trying times without missing a day in court.”
On October 16, NYLS will host its annual U.S. Supreme Court Year in Review and Year Ahead expert panel. The event is open to our entire community, and this year, it is also a part of our Alumni Celebration. We will dedicate this year’s panel to Justice Ginsburg’s memory.
May Justice Ginsburg rest in peace, and may our country honor the commitment to civility, democracy, and the rule of law that were at the heart of her beliefs.
Arthur N. Abbey ’59
Chair, Board of Trustees
Anthony W. Crowell
Dean and President