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Jubilee Honorary Doctor 2019

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Foto: Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States
Foto: Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States - Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Fifty years ago, US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was made Honorary Doctor at the Faculty of Law in Lund. On 7 May 2019, the Faculty of Law will confer the title Jubilee Honorary Doctor on Ruth Bader Ginsburg at a ceremony in Stockholm.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an American lawyer who has had a close relationship with Sweden and Lund University for many years. RBG, as she is often called, was born in New York in 1933. When she began studying law at Harvard, she was one of only nine women in a class of many hundreds of students. In 1959, she was awarded her degree as a top student at Columbia Law School. As a researcher, she became involved in the struggle for equal opportunities, gender equality and civil rights, and over the years she has become an icon for her work in this area.

Sweden was to be an important source of inspiration for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She studied in Lund and Stockholm for one year in the early 1960s and worked with the judge, Anders Bruzelius, on a comparative project about Swedish and American civil procedure. This resulted in the book, Civil Procedure in Sweden, which was published internationally in 1965. The book received considerable attention and they were both awarded Honorary Doctorates by the Faculty of Law in 1969. The citation stated, among other things, that Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s: “efforts in connection with this work – she learned Swedish and undertook extensive studies of Swedish case law and theory specifically for this purpose – are characterised by irrepressible energy and outstanding academic expertise. She has contributed to a great extent in giving Swedish procedural law an international connection.”

The period in Sweden also influenced her as a lawyer in work relating to gender equality. In contrast to the USA, 20–25 per cent of the law students in Sweden were women, and many women were in paid employment. In the 1970s, she took up the struggle against the extensive legislation that still maintained differences between men and women. Ruth Bader Ginsburg took the line that this contravened the American Constitution, which states that all are equal before the law. Through a number of different law suits she successfully challenged this legislation.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a judge to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where she worked until 1993 when President Bill Clinton nominated her for a position in the US Supreme Court, as the second-ever female Justice. In this role, she has continued to pursue the issues of gender equality and civil rights. Even though she has not always been among those holding majority opinions, her dissenting opinions have also had a considerable significance for the development of law.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become well known outside legal circles and acts as a role model for generations of lawyers in the USA and worldwide. Several books have been written about her as well as two films, the documentary RBG and the feature film On the Basis of Sex.