"Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Death Penalty, Gender Equality and That Elephant Ride With Scalia," is by Ariane de Vogue for ABC News. Here's an extended excerpt:
The typical 78-year-old woman who found herself having to slide down an emergency chute of an aircraft might decide to cancel her trip and head home to a hot bath.
But two-time cancer survivor Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not your typical woman.
After the pilot ordered the evacuation of Ginsburg’s plane before takeoff last week in Washington, D.C., she continued on a different plane to San Francisco. She had been invited to give a wide-ranging talk on the intricacies of constitutional law.
At the University of California Hastings College of Law, Professor Joan C. Williams sat down with Ginsburg Thursday and touched on issues ranging from the constitutionality of the death penalty, gender equality and her ride on an elephant with conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.
Asked about the death penalty, Ginsburg told the audience that earlier in the evening she had been getting calls from the court because of an emergency application filed by death-row inmate Duane Buck.
“There was an execution scheduled for 7 o’clock in Texas,” she said. “It has been stayed.”
Ginsburg said dealing with such applications “is the hardest part of the job I do.”
But she went on to explain why she hadn’t taken a position that the death penalty is unconstitutional in every circumstance. It is a position taken by some former members of the Supreme Court bench.
She did not take such a stance, she explained, in order to be able to have a voice at the table when death penalty disputes come up. Had she taken the position similar to former Justice William J. Brennan or Justice Thurgood Marshall, she said, “I would have no voice in what is going on. I would not be able to make things perhaps a little bit better. ”
Death penalty decisions, she said, are a “dreadful part of the business.”
Asked by the moderator if she had one thing she’d like to accomplish before leaving the bench, she said, “I probably would go back to the day when the Supreme Court said that the death penalty cannot be administered with an even hand,” noting that such an opportunity is unlikely to arrive.
Ginsburg was referring to a 1972 decision that invalidated capital punishment laws and led to a temporary moratorium on the death penalty. The court voted to reinstate the death penalty in 1976.
The AP filing is, "San Francisco Speech: Supreme Court Justice Talks Death Penalty, Gay Rights At U.C. Hastings," by Paul Elias. It's via Huffington Post.
The court's oldest justice spent most of the night at the University of California, San Francisco's Hastings School of Law discussing her gender equality cases when she was a lawyer, as well as important cases and legal issues that came before her on the high court.
With prompting from Hastings professor Joan Williams, Ginsburg said she found the death penalty "the hardest part of the job."
Ginsburg said, if given her druthers, she would "go back to the day to when the Supreme Court said the death penalty can't be applied with an even hand."
Nonetheless, she said she stays engaged with death penalty cases – rather than automatically voting against the death penalty as her former colleague Justice John Paul Stevens did – so she can "a voice in what's going on."
Ginsburg was appointed to the federal appeals court in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter and the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993.
She said that even though the court often divides 5-4 on high-profile legal questions before it, she and her colleagues enjoy a collegial relationship. Ginsburg said she even travels the world with her philosophical opposite, Justice Antonin Scalia.
"Scalia is my biggest buddy at the opera," she said.
Related posts are in the Supreme Court index.