Tributes to Justice Ginsburg


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justice-ginsburg-and-judge-dsouza-2.jpgWe mourn the loss of our fellow NAWJ member, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. A pioneer for women in the Judiciary and women everywhere, Justice Ginsburg's legacy will inspire generations to come.

Justice Ginsburg’s shining example reminds us all to bravely lead with integrity in all that we do, and together we can change the world.

Thank you, Justice Ginsburg.  Rest in peace.

The Honorable Bernadette D’Souza
Parish of Orleans, Civil District Court, Louisiana
NAWJ President

justice-ginsburg-and-judge-ipema.jpgJustice Ginsburg was the personification of Justice itself. She was loved around the globe. Her courage to do the right thing inspired us all.

Thank you Justice Ginsburg! I miss you.

The Honorable Tamila Ipema
Judge of California Superior Court, San Diego

I will always cherish my time at the NAWJ conferences. It was an opportunity to meet so many outstanding women judges. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of my favorites. Like all of us, I am mourning the loss of this great jurist, but I am also so grateful for her life and her work.

I was in awe of her intellectual prowess, the way she always chose the perfect word in her writing and her passion for dissent. She was a super visionary, knowing that someday her dissents would provide fruit for majority opinions, legislation, and hope for our country.

I could see that she was sometimes uncomfortable in a big crowd, so I never imposed myself on her, just saying hello and how much I appreciated her work. Her contribution to the law seemed so beyond the work I was doing on a case by case basis. I regret that I didn't take the risk of trying to get to know her more personally.

I remind others that her commitment to gender equality was so present when she ruled that males were entitled to social security benefits when their wives passed away just as women survivors were. This showed her respect to humanity, not just women.

I will always remember her response to the question of how many women would be enough on the Supreme Court: Nine. It took people aback but truly highlighted how having nine men didn't seem to shock anyone.

We all have so much to do to carry on her legacy, in our personal and professional lives. Be like Ruth.

In sisterhood,

The Honorable Susan E. Block
Retired Judge, Paule Camazine & Blumenthal


It was an honor and privilege to meet Justice Ginsburg near or during the same time period I served as NAWJ District 4 Director. NAWJ members participated in a VIP reception in Washington, DC at the Capital Hilton during the American Constitutional Society's annual convention. I greatly admired her humility and spirit of inclusivity. She was more than just a Supreme Court Justice. She was an American icon, living legend, champion and legal giant who transformed history, policies and laws. Thank you Justice Ginsburg for your larger than life contributions to society. 

The Honorable Claudia Barber
Former District 4 Director


Rest in peace, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She made an indelible mark that cannot be erased and blazed a trail for women in the legal profession and in the judiciary for which I will be forever grateful.

I met Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at a reception held in our honor at the US Supreme Court in 1995 when I was on the board of the National Bar Association. Justice Ginsburg was warm, welcoming and very engaging. Meeting and conversing with her watered the seeds that had already been planted in my life by Justice Vaino Spencer and Justice Candace Cooper and God gave the increase by my election to the bench 20 years ago. Thank you for giving me a snapshot of my future.

The Honorable Patricia J. Titus
Judge of the Superior Court of California
County of Los Angeles

I first became aware of Justice Bader Ginsberg was in 2005. I remained intrigued by her and would follow her opinions and used many of them to guide my own career and thinking. She was unusual and her thought processes provocative and stimulating.

Thank you Justice Ginsburg for your life. It was a light for many of us. You lived a good life and excelled.

We aim to continue your work for a better justice system and world.

Rest in eternal and well deserved peace.

The Honorable Charmaine Pemberton
Trinidad and Tobago Court of Appeal

RBG. Thank you for your pioneering spirit and your unwavering leadership. You have left an immense legacy through your voice, opinions, tenacity, and leadership. You have touched the hearts, minds, and souls of so many young people, many of whom have taken roles in our legal system. You showed humanity and humility in the face of adversity and as you occupied a key position on the United States Supreme Court. Your spirit will live on through those whom you have influenced over the years. My hope is that I strive to be the judge and person that you have been. 

The Honorable Helen Adams
Chief United States Magistrate Judge
Southern District of Iowa


Judge Rebecca Westerfield and her son, Nik, meeting Justice Ginsberg shortly after her induction on the Supreme Court. As you can see Justice Ginsburg was a model of a graceful presence in addition to being an unyielding advocate for justice.

The Honorable Rebecca Westerfield
Judge, Retired

Thank you, Justice Ginsburg for showing us how to be brave, courageous, deliberative, thoughtful, compassionate and visionary. You have provided us with the tools to carry on your legacy to move this nation closer to equal justice under law. With the power and privilege of the law, we will work to create a world of greater equality and endeavor that our U.S. Constitution deliver on its promise that "we the people" include "all the people." Your legacy is very important to America. Rest in peace, Justice Ginsburg; we will carry on. 

The Honorable Emily E. Vasquez
Superior Court of California
Sacramento County

justice-ginsberg---judge-walsh.jpgJustice Ginsburg was so devoted and attached to NAWJ. She attended and spoke at so many of our conferences and was such a gracious and generous host of NAWJ at the Supreme Court. I will never forget her 2010 appearance with Justice Sotomayor and Lady Brenda Hale, Supreme Court Justice from the United Kingdom, for a "Conversation with the Justices" during the Presidency of Justice Dana Fabe. Or her hosting a production of the incredible play, "Anne & Emmett" in the Taft Library at the Supreme Court in 2014, during the Presidency of Chief Justice Anna Blackburne-Rigsby. Afterward, she hosted a panel discussion with Dan Rather and the Playwright, Janet Langhart Cohen. The play addressed government-sponsored bigotry and the parallels between Nazi race laws and our country's Jim Crow laws. In 2016, during my year as President of NAWJ, we held the Biennial Conference of the IAWJ in Washington DC. Justice Ginsburg hosted a number of events at that conference and spoke for our international guests, almost 1000 women judges from over 80 countries. Attending that conference was the experience of a lifetime. Justice Ginsburg kept seats for our members who wish to attend oral argument at the Court. One of my colleagues wanted to bring her children to watch argument of a case which she had decided at the state level. Justice Ginsburg's chambers made that possible for my colleague.Justice Ginsburg was so generous with her time and made countless contributions to NAWJ and to many of us individually . I am grateful to have experienced her generosity and goodwill. 

The Honorable Lisa Walsh
11th Judicial Circuit Court Judge

We all know Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her enormous contributions as a jurist, advocate and scholar, but I was the beneficiary of her generosity when I was putting together the material for a new course on Sex Discrimination and the Law at the University of San Diego School of Law. With two friends, including the provost of USD, we learned RBG was co-author of a casebook on the topic and contacted her for assistance. She immediately sent us the galley proofs of her book with permission to use it without limitation. She wanted as many students to benefit from the scholarship as possible. We couldn't have succeeded as we did without her support and encouragement.

The Honorable Judith McConnell
Administrative Presiding Justice

Justice Ginsburg was very gracious with her time, and for the past several years spent an hour with each group of newly-appointed U.S. Magistrate Judges as part of their orientation and training at the Federal Judicial Center. She made the most experienced to the newest appointee feel welcomed to the Federal Court Family, and instilled a sense of pride and purpose to our work. She was an example of Grace Under Pressure, and of hard work and perseverance. I hope that we all continue to emulate her collegiality and dedication to the Rule of Law.

The Honorable Celeste Bremer
U.S. Magistrate Judge

If she had lived 100 years, it would have been too few.
In a world where women are expected to comply, she said "I dissent."
In a world where love has been kept in a box with rules, she said "I dissent."
In a world where borders are drawn tighter and walls are built higher, she said "I dissent."
In a world where fiction is told as truth and facts are twisted into lies, she said "I dissent."
And so, on a night when it feels like the pendulum has swung off its fulcrum, like there is no place to make a U-turn, like the darkness is winning, I will say - loudly so as to convince myself - I dissent.
For decades she stared unafraid into the faces of misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, and bigotry, daring them to blink. She wrote reams and spoke volumes and did push-ups while her detractors... I don't know, ate cheeseburgers or whatever.
So because she did, I can. Because she did, I will.
Tonight feels like the end of something, but it doesn't have to be. This is a moment that, instead of being the death of hope, can be the birth of a renewed zeal. Giving up feels very easy, even warranted, but it also feels disrespectful to her memory. We can take this moment and turn it into a movement. We can, like the Notorious RBG, dissent. We can, like her, dissent until the very breath leaves our bodies.
Thank you, Justice Ginsburg. You fought harder and longer than you should have had to, for us, and we are so grateful. Rest well; you earned it.
Oyez, oyez, oyez.
Tonight, we cry. But tomorrow, we rise.


At a NAWJ Regional meeting in Chicago, Justice Ginsburg was the guest of honor at a reception. A colleague and I arrived at the reception early and Justice Ginsburg was already there. I had the honor to meet and speak with her before the rest of the attendees arrived. My colleague assisted Justice Ginsburg with her corsage and got her drink. I was struck not only by her small stature but by the lovely gloves she wore as she would be shaking a lot of hands. She was kind and interested in what some Iowa state court trial judges had to say. I will never forget that first time I met her in such an intimate setting.

In 2013, I attended the NAWJ Mid-year meeting in Washington, D.C. Justice Ginsburg hosted us at a reception at the Supreme Court. By this time she had become the "Notorious RBG" and had rock star status. It was quite something to see a room packed with very accomplished women judges from all over the country act like rock star groupies to get close to Justice Ginsburg. I remember her remarks that day as she spoke about the Lilly Ledbetter case and how she believed it was wrongly decided, but a wide grin crossed her face when she noted that Congress had passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to correct the wrong that Justice Ginsburg's dissent discussed. Justice Ginsburg remained at this reception for an extended time and was so very gracious in meeting and speaking with many of us, including me. After her death I dug out the somewhat out of focus photos I took that day and the one a colleague took of me and the Justice. As I remembered that day tears ran down my face. She was one of a kind and had such an impact on my life and made my career possible.

The final time I had the honor in being in Justice Ginsburg's presence was the following year, 2014, when NAWJ arranged the presentation of the play "Anne and Emmett" at the Supreme Court. Justice Ginsburg delivered remarks at that event. I do not recall her mingling with the judges that year, but Justice Sotomayor did.

As I watched the memorial services for Justice Ginsburg at the US Supreme Court and at the US Capital tears again streamed down my face realizing what America has lost with the death of Justice Ginsburg. My fleeting opportunities to be in her presence are memories I will never forget but it is her life's work that the world will never forget. When Denyce Graves sang "American Anthem" at the memorial in the Capital I thought it was most appropriate - "America, America I gave my best to you." That she did.

The Honorable Karen Romano
Iowa District Court Judge (Senior Status)


I had the honor of meeting Justice Ginsburg at an NAWJ conference. She was so charming and humble. Thank you Justice Ginsburg for speaking truth to power and for being a Northstar to the judiciary and to the legal profession. You will be missed, but your legacy lives on. Rest In Peace and Power Justice Ginsburg!

The Honorable Tanya R. Kennedy
Associate Justice of the Appelllate Division, First Department

Looking back on growing up at the tail end of a fierce debate on the Equal Rights Amendment, I became keenly aware of women around our nation arguing on behalf of all of us for gender equality. Justice Ginsburg has affected so many of our lives, not just women, but all people who had occasion to stand before the Court no matter their station in life. I am forever grateful for her voice on behalf of the people, and for her keen awareness of what day to day life looks life for so many. My husband gave me a tribute book to Justice Ginsburg a few years ago, and one of my favorite quotes from it is this one: “Do something outside of yourself- something to repair tears in your community, something to make life a little better for people less fortunate than you. That’s what I think a meaningful life is.” The NAWJ and the many caring members engage in community programs to further this effort, and may we continue to do so as the years unfold, always remembering this wonderful Justice who has touched and inspired all of us.

Commissioner Pennie K. McLaughlin
San Diego Superior Court
NAWJ Executive Board, 2018-20
Projects Chair

of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg
By Judge Joan Churchill

From the NAWJ 2013 Midyear Conference

justice-ginsberg-and-judge-churchill.jpgDuring my term as NAWJ President, I organized a Forum for our 2013 Midyear Conference on challenges to independence faced by the Administrative Judiciary and other special courts.   Our devoted member, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, graciously arranged for us to use the conference rooms at the Supreme Court for our Forum and the reception following.  As a passionate advocate, ever since being appointed an Immigration Judge in 1980, for respect for the independence of administrative judges, I appreciated the opportunity to have our Forum take place in the majestic Supreme Court Building.  As the role of administrative judges is not well known, even by fellow judges, I felt tasked to provide educational programs to raise awareness.  The very special location for our Forum gave us an occasion for a wider audience and high visibility to the serious issue of the systemic challenges to judicial independence which face the administrative judiciary. 

Our panel was stellar.  Moderated by NAWJ’s Academic Network Committee Cochair, the renowned Professor of constitutional law Vicki Jackson of Harvard Law School, the panel included two administrative judges from our membership, Judge Ann Breen-Greco, a state administrative judge and Immigration Judge Dana Marks, a federal administrative judge.  We had appellate judges at both the federal and state level who hear appeals from administrative judges: Judge Pauline Newman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and Chief Judge Eric Washington of the D.C. Court of Appeals (D.C.’s highest court).   U.S. District Court Judge Michael Ponsor, a prior Federal Magistrate, provided the panel with the perspective of a different type of special judge.

The accompanying photograph shows Justice Ginsburg addressing us at the reception which followed the Forum.  I am standing beside her.   The date was May 3, 2013. A group of international judges were with us, who were in town for the annual Board meeting of the International Association of Women Judges. We had timed our conferences to overlap.   After her remarks, while she mingled, Justice Ginsburg was enthusiastically swamped by the international judges -- a vivid demonstration that her “notorious” RBG rock star status, exciting and inspiring women, is a worldwide, not merely national, phenomenon.

Inspired ourselves by Justice Ginsburg’s legacy of advocating for gender equality, another program we organized for the 2013 Midyear was entitled: Rights of Women to Confer Benefits on Men.   Justice Ginsburg is known for advancing women’s rights by representing male plaintiffs seeking benefits on the basis of their relationship to women in their lives, a strategy designed to emphasize the importance of treating women and men equally under the law. 

We began that program with a theatrical reading of the legal arguments advanced in Act I Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Henry V by the Archbishop of Canterbury.  To support Henry’s claim to the throne of France through his great great-grandmother, Isabella of France, whose father, King Phillip IV of France, died without male issue, the Archbishop argued that Salic law prohibiting inheritance by women did not apply in France.   Shifting to issues from our own lifetimes, we presented a panel that discussed cases that Justice Ginsburg had argued as a litigant before the Supreme Court, in which she won:
(1)a housing allowance for the husband of a female military officer, and
(2)social security survivor benefits for a widowed father based on his late wife’s earnings.

Our members on that panel included Judges Coral Pietsch, a retired General who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and (2) Judge Mikki Aronson, a Social Security Appeals Judge.

Thus we remember, with gratitude, the double debt we owe to Justice Ginsburg for her substantial contributions in several ways that made our 2013 NAWJ Midyear Conference a fabulous success!

  – And that occasion was but one of many times that she participated with us and added luster to our events.

The Honorable Joan Churchill
NAWJ Past President, Immigration Judge (Ret.)

justice-ginsburg-and-judge-holland.jpgThe above photo was taken at a reception during a Midyear Meeting of NAWJ. It was near the end of the evening and I saw Justice Ginsburg standing by herself at the table. She had finished nibbling on something, when I spoke first to see if she needed anything else and second to tell her about knowing Derrick Wang, the composer of the Scalia/Ginsburg Opera. Derrick graduated from the University of Maryland Law School, as did his brother, Marcus and me ( in different years of course.) Marcus and I sat on the same Board at the law school so I had heard about the planning of the opera and Derrick’s extreme pride and excitement that Justice Ginsburg was so supportive. As soon as I mentioned Derrick’s name, her face lit up and the smile you see in the photo came on her face as she gushed about what a wonderful, talented young man he was and how much she loved his opera. The photographer had moved away, but when he saw her smile and her animated conversation with me, he came back and snapped this and another photo. I will cherish those few minutes always. While I had seen Justice Ginsburg before and met her (She was an ardent supporter of NAWJ),this time was different. I saw her passion for the opera and for young people. We never talked law or anything about the court. It was like a personal chat with a friend. I understand why she had such a following of young people and the nickname Notorious RBG. She earned that nickname not only due to her legal career, her tenacity in fighting for equality and her scholarship, but also because of her genuine human spirit of caring for all people, young and old. We were blessed to have her as long as we did. Our challenge now is continue her work for equality for all in that same tenacious and notorious manner.

Rest In Peace, RBG.

The Honorable Marcella Holland
NAWJ Board Member

Memories of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

By Emily Chafa

How to say what an impact this diminutive person with a brilliant mind had on me and every woman lawyer? Her impact is beyond words. Despite that fact, here are a few memories I cherish.

I first heard Justice Ginsburg speak in 1995 at the annual Supreme Court Day sponsored by Drake University Law School in Des Moines, Iowa. Due to a generous and well-connected Drake Law alum, Dwight Opperman, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice visited Drake every year and spoke to the law students and the local legal community. We had a rare glimpse into each justice’s perspectives and life stories. Justice Ginsburg appeared tiny in the large room where she gave the speech. We focused intently on every carefully chosen word. She was alternately substantive and funny - a very engaging speaker. (I also heard Justice Antonin Scalia speak at the same Drake event another year. His speech helped me understand his viewpoints and approaches to the cases the Court heard and decided.)

I heard Justice Ginsburg speak again in 2002 when she received the NAWL (National Association of Women Lawyers) Arabella Babb Mansfield Award. This award is named after the first woman lawyer in the U.S., admitted to practice law in Iowa on June 15, 1869. The NAWL president introduced the award, mistakenly saying that Arabella Babb Mansfield was admitted to the bar in Ohio (wrong state). This native Iowan reacted to that error. A few minutes later, Justice Ginsburg graciously accepted the award, noting that it was such an honor to receive this award named after the first woman lawyer, “from Iowa,” gently but firmly noting and correcting the geographical error. I smiled and whispered, “Thank you!” She proceeded to give a lovely speech, of course, but I remember her taking the trouble to correct the record.

Perhaps my favorite sustaining memory of Justice Ginsburg is her love of opera, and her vast knowledge of lesser known operas. She shares this love with her dear friend Justice Scalia, who become and remained a dear friend for many years, mostly through their shared love of opera, despite their frequent divergent views of the law. She also shares this love of opera with me. I love attending operas and sing opera arias from time to time. Four years ago, the director of the Des Moines Metro Opera (DMMO) heard that Justice Ginsburg’s favorite opera is Billy Budd, by English composer Benjamin Britten. On a whim, he wrote to her and told her that the DMMO was presenting Billy Budd as part of its opera season, stated the dates it would be performed, and asked her to come to see the opera if it fit into her schedule. He didn’t expect a response. He received a letter on U.S. Supreme Court stationary, thanking him for the information, but stating that the Court would be in session during that time. This summer, the opera company broadcast this opera as part of its virtual season. The DMMO director wrote to Justice Ginsburg again, informing her that Billy Budd would be broadcast and provided the date, time, and other details. She responded, on the same stationary, stating that she couldn’t watch the broadcast, but would appreciate a DVD recording of the opera. She received the video recording a few weeks before her death. I choose to believe that she watched this opera recording, which artfully depicts the struggle between the law’s requirements and simple morality, right and wrong. I watched the broadcast this summer. It is a deeply moving opera. I completely understand why it’s her favorite.

When I think of Justice Ginsburg, I will remember the depth and breadth of her knowledge of the law and of opera. I will remember our shared appreciation for a trailblazing woman lawyer. I will chuckle over our shared diminutive stature. She was certainly small but mighty, in so many ways.

The Honorable Emily Chafa
Administrative Law Judge (Ret.), State of Iowa


It was such a highlight to meet Justice Ginsburg at the NAWJ conference in Newark. She was the best keynote speaker at any of our banquets. Justice Ginsburg was such a role model to all of us. I was especially grateful for all she had done to lay the groundwork for those of us who were first in our position.

It was also a highlight for me to see her on the bench when I visited the Supreme Court for oral arguments in 2017. I proudly have the RBG action figure figure and “Pocket RBG Wisdom” in my chambers.
Rest In Peace Justice Ginsburg.

The Honorable Natalie Tyrrell
Judge, North Las Vegas Justice Court


I was honored to meet and chat with Justice Ginsburg on two separate occasions at NAWJ events. She was delighted to know that my decision to attend Loyola University of Chicago School of Law was primarily because the Dean of the school was one of the only female Deans in the country. That woman happened to be one of her dear friends and Columbia Law School classmate.

What a privilege to have been in the presence of one of the greatest trailblazers in modern history. She will be deeply missed, but her legacy lives on and her work continues through her beloved NAWJ. 

The Honorable Lisette Shirdan-Harris
Court of Common Pleas

As I contemplate the passing of Justice Ginsburg, I am inspired by all she accomplished in her lifetime. She made a difference, not just in the lives of women, but in all lives. She strived to eradicate injustice and prejudice both as a lawyer and a justice. She set an example for all of us as we move forward without her. I will be forever guided by her generous spirit, her sense of humor and her love of the law and of life. May her legacy will live on!

The Honorable Elizabeth White
Vice President of Districts, NAWJ
Los Angeles Superior Court (Ret.)

Justice Ruth Ginsburg was a pioneer for women in the judiciary profession. She inspired many women and was a beacon of light to those whose lives she touched.

She dedicated her life to doing what was right and just. Her contagious energy was felt by all, and her legacy will continue forward.

Thank you, Justice Ruth Ginsburg. Rest In Peace. 

The Honorable Marie D. Cordova


Judge Ann Breen-Greco, Past ABA Judicial Division Chair and Past NAWJ Vice President of Districts, greets Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg at the United States Supreme Court at a reception hosted by Justice Ginsberg for the National Association of Women Judges in 2014. It was an honor and a special occasion to be able to meet Justice Ginsberg at this reception, a memory to be treasured.

The Honorable Ann Breen-Greco
Independent Administrative Judiciary Professional


By Donna Paulsen, Senior District Court Judge, Iowa

donna_paulsen_photo.jpgI had the honor of meeting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on two occasions; once in Washington D. C., and once in Chicago, at NAWJ-sponsored events.  Justice Ginsberg and I were both members of NAWJ, the National Association of Women Judges, an organization promoting gender equality in the courts. At one time I was an NAWJ board member. At a small reception in Chicago, I was able to speak with her.  Justice Ginsburg was there with her granddaughter - who is now a lawyer.  When you see this woman in person - frail, diminutive in stature, it is such a visual contrast with the knowledge of her powerful intellect and immense contribution to the law. Justice Ginsburg wore gloves as she was shaking hands with attendees. Her voice was very soft, but she was always smiling. She expressed an interest in our courts and how the young women lawyers were faring. She had a dry wit and was the consummate gentle lady.

I was a generation behind Justice Ginsburg as I entered the University of Iowa College of Law in 1972, when women were just starting to enter law schools in larger numbers. My class was about 20% women.  Justice Ginsberg’s class in 1950 was only 2% women. At the law school they did not know what to do with us.  They had hastily converted a men’s restroom for the women but left the urinals.  We insisted that we were there to stay, and the urinals needed to go. Our law school classes were conducted using the Socratic Method where professors ask questions of students regarding the case studies. In our class, the women were singled out for embarrassment and particularly called on wherever a case dealt with sexual assault. I can only imagine the issues faced by Justice Ginsburg.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Justice Ginsburg was already a rock star to women lawyers. She was arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court which was rare for women.  She was pursuing a strategy of carefully selected cases to promote gender equality.  The strategy was working!  In cases such as Frontiero v. Richardson, she prevailed in her argument that it was an unconstitutional denial of equal protection to deny a housing allowance to a female in the Air Force because of her sex.  In Weinberger v. Weisenfield she carefully selected a male plaintiff who was denied social security benefits after the death of his wife. Case by case, she educated the all-male Supreme Court about gender discrimination.

Justice Ginsburg had difficulty finding a job after she graduated from law school despite her stellar resume.  I too had that same experience in 1975.  Only two women were in private practice in Cedar Rapids, Iowa when I was looking for work.  Reasons for not hiring me included: our partner’s daughter will be graduating from law school in a few years and we will need to hire her; our attorneys need to travel and their wives would not like them traveling with a female lawyer.

Justice Ginsburg was always a role model for our personal lives as well.  She managed a happy marriage and children.  She cared for her young daughter  while in law school in addition to caring for her husband during his cancer treatments.

 When Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was appointed in 1981 as the first woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court we were thrilled. Women were encouraged by her appointment to apply to be judges. I was inspired to give it a try.  In 1992, I was appointed to serve as the first woman District Court Judge in Polk County, Iowa (where Des Moines is located) and in the 15 counties of the 5th Judicial District.  This position was very tough at times as some members of the judiciary, some lawyers and some litigants did not want women in the judiciary.  When Justice Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993 it was such a victory as we knew she would be another strong voice for gender equity. We were no longer a token of just one, but we had two women on the Court. Over the years, Justice Ginsburg’s majority opinions and her dissents were infused with integrity and hope for what our laws and our country should be for all. Her decisions on DACA, health insurance, racial discrimination, same sex marriage, women’s reproductive rights, equal pay and more have impacted every facet of our lives. She embraced her well-deserved rock star status as ”The Notorious R.B.G. “

It is hard to put into words how grateful I am for Justice Ginsburg.  She remained focused and worked tirelessly for her beliefs in justice for all.  Along the way there were many personal sacrifices she made to excel in her legal work.  During her career she was collegial and able to communicate with justices who did not share her views on the law as evidenced by her friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia.  We have come a long way over the last fifty some years, but we have much more work to do. Thank you, Justice Ginsburg.  You have inspired many other lawyers and judges who will continue to champion your work to tirelessly promote not only gender equity but equal justice for all.


Judge Donna Paulsen was the first woman to be appointed to the District Court bench in Polk County, Iowa, in 1992. Judge Paulsen is a longtime NAWJ member.

The Honorable Donna Paulsen
Senior District Court Judge, Iowa



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