The national legacy of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg includes a footnote that influenced instruction in the University of Nebraska’s College of Law.
Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18 after a years-long battle with pancreatic cancer, visited the university on April 7, 2006 to deliver the Roman L. Hrkuska Institute for the Administration of Justice lecture. She also interacted directly with students in the College of Law and College of Journalism and Mass Communications.
One of the faculty selected to host Ginsburg for a face-to-face student discussion was Anna W. Shavers, Cline Williams Professor of Citizenship Law and associate dean for diversity and inclusion.
“That was a day I will never forget,” Shavers said. “The class was on gender issues, and to have RBG come in and give insight on the cases she was involved in and the law that she helped establish — work we were studying — was just a remarkable experience.”
The presentation even inspired Shavers to adjust the way she teaches the course.
“Her presentation definitely made an impact on me,” Shavers said. “Her message has influenced the way I teach the class and topics we focus on from that day on.”
— Anna W Shavers (@LawProfShavers) September 19, 2020
Before she was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993, Ginsburg charted a law career as an advocate for gender equality. Her cases challenged longstanding gender stereotypes as a way to fight sex discrimination. And, the work erased biased laws, established new protections for female workers, and created precedents that continue to influence the law decades later.
Legal experts compare Ginsburg’s success in gender equality law to 1940s and 1950s civil rights legal battles led by Thurgood Marshall. Shavers said Marshall and Ginsburg are two of the most influential Supreme Court justices of all time.
“While their plurality opinions have been groundbreaking, both wrote a number of dissenting opinions,” Shavers said. “Those dissents are worthy of being read by anyone. They are sources of knowledge that have, and will continue to, influence and convince other members of the court to change opinions.”
Like many in the legal field, Shavers has been inspired by Ginsburg’s career.
Shavers has been inspired by Ginsburg’s career, dedication to helping others and personal similarities — both had an infant while maintaining goals to earn a law degree.
“I’ve always been inspired by the kind of cases she pursued,” Shavers said. “They weren’t cases that would further her own interests. Rather, she was dedicated to helping others.
“That’s why I was so excited to meet her and have her talk with our students — the Notorious RBG was one of my legal heroes because she tried to make the lives of people better.”
The College of Law marked Ginsburg's career with a candlelight vigil on Sept. 20.
I look forward to celebrating Justice Ginsburg's amazing life with our students tonight. I was fortunate enough to have lunch with her & a different group of students over a decade ago. She will be missed by all who support "equality before the law," to quote Nebraska state motto https://t.co/FkTeXOqr9G pic.twitter.com/hvb3e74DyA
— Richard Moberly (@Richard_Moberly) September 20, 2020