U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Headlines Titans Breakfast with Former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson

On Dec. 17, 500 attendees gathered in Reston for the latest NVTC Titans breakfast featuring a conversation between U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson. During the event, Justice Ginsburg discussed Supreme Court processes, her relationship with fellow justices, and her advice for lawyers.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Ted Olson.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Ted Olson converse during the NVTC Titans breakfast on Dec. 17, 2013.

During the conversation, Justice Ginsburg discussed how cases are selected for consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court, stating that the Court only steps in when there is disagreement among lower court judges, with the goal of keeping U.S. laws consistent across the country. She described the Court’s oral argument process and advised lawyers to open with a well-prepared sentence when arguing a case in front of the Court, but to be flexible enough to “go where the court is taking the argument.” Justice Ginsburg prides herself on asking succinct questions.

Justice Ginsburg also spoke on the collegial atmosphere of the Supreme Court, focusing on her friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia. Although Justices Ginsburg and Scalia differ in judicial philosophy, both enjoy music, especially opera. Justice Ginsburg shared that an opera has been written about them, entitled “Scalia and Ginsburg,” reading sections of arias from the upcoming show.

Finally, Justice Ginsburg shared anecdotes from her history on the Court, particularly what it was like being only the second woman justice. She also discussed the judicial confirmation process, saying that when she was confirmed, Congress was civil, polite and did not question her on her background with the American Civil Liberties Union, where she was an advocate for women (and men, she said) for many years. She contrasted her experience with that faced by more recent justices. Justice Ginsberg feels that the symbol of the U.S. is a pendulum, saying “the pendulum has gone too far in one direction, and I hope it will go back to the middle,” in regards to judicial confirmations.

During a candid audience question and answer session, Justice Ginsburg advised businesses that are confused by certain laws affecting their companies to make their representatives aware of the challenges caused by ambiguities and uncertainties in many laws. She also shared that the “Equal Protection Clause” is her favorite part of the Constitution, because it upholds and extends the “We the People” philosophy of the Constitution, and is capable of evolving along with society. Justice Ginsburg also stated that she finds peace when on the minority side of an opinion because “it ain’t over until it’s over” and many dissents often become the law of the land eventually. Finally, in response to a question about hypothetical term limits for Supreme Court justices, she shared that justices should only retire when they can no longer do the job “full steam.”