Justice Ginsburg speaks at attorneys' convention

Posted: Monday, May 05, 2008

ANCHORAGE - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg discussed gender equality, media transparency and her unlikely friendship with fellow justice Antonin Scalia in a talk on Friday before hundreds of lawyers in a packed hotel ballroom in Alaska.

In an interview moderated by Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Dana Fabe, Ginsburg opened with her own rendition of a playful Alaska saying from the 1980s, when deceased musher Susan Butcher dominated the grueling Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

"Alaska: Where men are men ... and women have not only won the governorship, but a senate seat and the chief justiceship of the Supreme Court," Ginsburg said to a crowd of about 600 attorneys at the Marriott Hotel.

She noted that 18 state Supreme Courts have women as chief judges, calling it "a remarkable change." When Ginsburg attended Harvard Law School, she was one of less than a dozen women in a class of more than 500. She later transferred to Columbia, where the class of about 300 included 12 women.

Ginsburg, who has been on the high court since 1993, said she would like to see an equal rights clause added to the U.S. Constitution.

"It may be largely symbolic, but it's an important symbol," Ginsburg said.

She also discussed the court's attempts to be more transparent with the public by providing audio and same-day written transcripts of proceedings.

She noted a recent profile of Justice Antonin Scalia on CBS' "60 Minutes," saying, "more justices have spoken on TV or in the press more often than in the past."

The feature quoted Ginsburg, a close friend of Scalia's, describing how Scalia's charm allowed her to overlook the "zinging" criticisms he often lobs at his colleagues.

The Alaska Bar Association has regularly attracted Supreme Court justices to its annual convention. Recent speakers have included Scalia, Sandra Day O'Connor and Chief Justice John Roberts.

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