U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg visited Northwestern Law September 14-15 as the Howard J. Trienens Visiting Judicial Scholar, providing students and faculty with perspectives on the judicial process and contemporary legal issues.
Ginsburg answered a broad range of questions during a discussion with two Northwestern University School of Law professors, often delighting the audience of 700-plus in the Law School's Thorne Auditorium.
Among her answers during the discussion, she talked about the continuing importance of the Equal Protection Clause (enacted in 1868), a recent conversation with Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor about judicial fashion (met with loud laughter), the effect of the decision-making process on the court's ultimate opinions and the controversy over citing opinions of international courts in Supreme Court decisions.
Ginsburg became a lawyer, she said, during the McCarthy era to make life better for other people. She hoped that Northwestern Law students would use their skills for the same purpose.
Ginsburg participated in the discussion with faculty members Steven Calabresi, the co-founder of the Federalist Society and the George C. Dix Professor of Law, and Professor Robert Burns, a specialist in advocacy, professionalism and criminal procedure.
She was nominated by President Bill Clinton as associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in June 1993 and took the oath of office Aug. 10, 1993.
In 1971, then-Professor Ginsburg of Rutgers University was instrumental in launching the Women's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. Throughout the 1970s she litigated a series of cases solidifying a constitutional principle against gender-based discrimination.
The Howard J. Trienens Visiting Scholar Program was established at Northwestern Law in 1989 by partners of Sidley Austin LLP to honor Howard Trienens’ service to the firm and Northwestern.
Trienens, a partner at Sidley Austin since 1956, has been a member of the Northwestern board of trustees since 1967 and chairman of the board from 1986 to 1995. He received two degrees from Northwestern, a bachelor’s degree in 1945 and a JD in 1949. He was editor in chief of the Illinois Law Review.
Distinguished jurists who have lectured as part of the Trienens Visiting Judicial Scholar Program include U.S. Supreme Court Justices John G. Roberts Jr., William H. Renquist, Antonin Scalia, John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Anthony M. Kennedy.