New Zealand Law Society - Tribute from Aotearoa to Justice Ginsburg

Tribute from Aotearoa to Justice Ginsburg

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US Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the high court and a legal pioneer for gender equality, has been remembered in New Zealand as well as across the United States and around the world.

She died on 18 September at her home in Washington at the age of 87.

As the Washington Post’s obituary notes, she was born in Depression-era Brooklyn, and excelled academically topping her law school class at a time when women were still called upon to justify taking a man’s place.

Auckland-based barrister Carmel Walsh has recounted having dinner with Justice Ginsburg two years ago where they talked of opera and moving to New Zealand.

Ms Walsh sat next to Justice Ginsburg at a dinner hosted at a summer festival close to Washington DC, then sat together to watch Puccini’s Tosca.

Ms Walsh’s husband, Kiwi tenor Simon O’Neill, was the speaker at the dinner.

“I reminded her of the promise she’d famously made, and for which she also later apologised, that if Donald Trump was elected as the US President she would move to New Zealand. I told her that in New Zealand ‘We can’t wait for your arrival’. She chuckled,” says Ms Walsh.

“We talked mostly about opera, despite me desperately wanting to talk to her about her great career, and we even managed to discuss the difficulty with keeping old operatic material relevant to modern times and she raised as an example The Merchant of Venice.

“One memorable comment she made to me was how remarkable the number of opera singers New Zealand produced and how we punched above our weight in that regard. She was very well informed about New Zealand.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s daughter Jane Ginsburg, an IP specialist, is a regular visitor to New Zealand, with a love of tramping the country’s great walks.

Justice Ginsburg’s death has sparked a political fight over her seat on the Supreme Court with Democrats vowing to oppose Mr Trump’s intention of filling the seat by the November election.