Following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18, members of the Long Beach State community shared what the notable figure meant to them.
Christine Scott-Hayward is an assistant professor of law, criminology and criminal justice at Long Beach State.
Scott-Hayward was selected as a Supreme Court fellow in 2016, where she spent a year assigned to the United States Sentencing Commission.
There, she met Ginsburg multiple times, the first time at a welcome reception.
“She’s so small and yet she’s just this giant figure,” Scott-Hayward said. “She was just incredibly gracious and wanted to hear who we are, who we were and what we were doing.”
On a separate occasion, Scott-Hayward sat next to Ginsburg at an annual dinner. The two discussed the opera, something Ginsburg is well-known for enjoying, and the female justices on the Supreme Court of Ireland, where Scott-Hayward is from.
“She was so sharp, quick-witted,” Scott-Hayward said about Ginsburg, who had met all the justices they discussed. “I think she was in her 80s at that point and she didn’t miss a beat.”
“You lose sort of the history,” Scott-Hayward said. “She was part of the civil rights, the gender equality movement for so long, and so not to have that sort of experience both as an advocate, as a justice on the court, there’s a loss in terms of sort of understanding and knowledge of the field.”
President Jane Close Conoley took to Twitter to mourn the loss.
The @CSULB campus community joins the nation in mourning U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. A pioneer and towering intellect, her decisions changed American higher education for the better, ensuring fairness and equality for all. pic.twitter.com/JyNwgL1I4D
— Jane Close Conoley (@PresConoley) September 21, 2020
In an email, Conoley said that she first learned of Ginsburg’s death in a Zoom meeting with California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White.
He shared the news with everyone at that meeting.
“She was a towering force even before she was a Justice,” Conoley said. “She’s known for her work for women’s rights, but in addition she was a champion for democracy and all human rights. She inspired generations of lawyers. She also inspired many women and men to live with equity in their relationships.”
Conoley said that she was sorry Ginsburg’s death has become so politicized, but recognized the reality of the situation.
“We’ve been dealing with a lot — pandemic, financial collapse, racial injustice – and so her death seems all the more cruel,” Conoley said. “I am sure she hung on to life as long as she could and I am forever grateful that I lived to know about her.”
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The Women’s Gender and Equity Center posted about Ginsburg on their Instagram page, as well as the Department of Political Science.
Students also expressed what Ginsburg meant to them.
Sarah Martinet, a third-year criminal justice major, explained how Ginsburg represented perseverance to her.
“She made it through law school being one of the only women, and she stood up to some of the other justices on the court when she didn’t agree with certain decisions,” Marinet said.
Ginsburg was one out of nine female students enrolled at Harvard Law School in 1956. She was a champion for gender equality, and argued her first case against gender discrimination in the Supreme Court in 1973.
“She was always a huge inspiration to me,” Alexandra Stepanov, a fourth-year philosophy and criminal justice major, said. “I actually want to be a Supreme Court justice one day. That’s the ultimate dream. So, she definitely paved the way for that to be a possibility just because she was one of the first Supreme Court justices that was a female.”