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Women on Supreme Court no longer seen as ‘curiosity’
Question of the Day
“We are one-third of this court,” Justice Ginsburg said during an interview with the Associated Press in her Supreme Court office. No longer a momentous event, the appointment of a woman to the high court has become, Justice Ginsburg said, “expectable.”
But having three women on the court may not change the outcome of any cases. The justices, after all, regularly divide 5-4 along ideological lines in high-profile cases. Justice Sotomayor’s votes in her first year were very similar to Justice David H. Souter‘s, the man she replaced. Justice Kagan is expected to vote much like Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired in June.
Academic studies have so far found just one area, sex discrimination lawsuits, in which the presence of a woman on a panel of federal appeals court judges appears to make a difference. A three-judge panel that includes a woman “is significantly more likely to rule in favor of” a person claiming sex discrimination, Christina Boyd, Lee Epstein and Andrew Martin concluded in a 2008 paper.
Adding another woman might not change the outcome of cases, but it could have an effect on how the court goes about its business, Miss George said. She cited social science research that suggests the presence of a woman in a decision-making group influences the behavior of others in the group.
Justice Ginsburg put a similar thought plainly. “We do bring to the table the experience of growing up as girls and women,” she said.
The 77-year-old justice picked out one case that the court decided in 2009 to illustrate her point. A 13-year-old girl complained about being strip-searched by officials at her middle school in Arizona in pursuit of prescription-strength ibuprofen.
“The initial reaction of the men was, ‘What’s so terrible? Boys disrobe,”’ she said. “But I think the court really appreciated that there is a difference between the reaction of a 13-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy to that kind of exposure.”
Justice Ginsburg didn’t explicitly say so, but she appeared to be taking credit for changing some minds. The justices voted 8-1 that the search violated the student’s constitutional rights.
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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