Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Colorado connections spanned career


Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court Justice who passed away September 18 at age 87, left a lasting legacy of fighting for equal rights, especially for historically disenfranchised communities.

In Colorado, Ginsburg’s death has been hard on the members of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association (CWBA), an organization that made Ginsburg an honorary lifetime member in 2015.

“I certainly don’t think that women in Colorado and law would be where we are without the work that she did to pave the way for us going forward,” Miranda Hawkins said of Ginsburg. Hawkins is the president of the CWBA. “She fought tirelessly to make our legal system and our nation more just, equitable, and inclusive. She was a fierce advocate for gender equality and justice.”

Hawkin’s favorite quote from Ginsburg is, “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

“This quote speaks directly to her legacy with the Colorado Women’s Bar Association,” Hawkins said. “For example, last year we were instrumental in getting the Equal Pay For Equal Work Act passed.”

In 2003, Justice Ginsburg visited Colorado to speak at a CU Law conference event. While in Colorado, Ginsburg agreed to meet with members of the CWBA. The organization put together a reception for Ginsburg and awarded her their highest honor: the Mary Lathrop Trailblazer Award, named after the first female attorney to open a law practice in Colorado.

Ginsburg’s impact on Colorado goes back even further. In 1972, she represented Charles Moritz in Moritz v. Commissioner. Mortiz was a never-married Denver man whose tax deduction for the cost of a caregiver for his mother was denied by the IRS because at the time, only women or formerly married men could receive such a deduction. The gender discrimination case would become, as Newsweek put it, “a legal battle that started Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Legacy.”

The case was also one of the main elements of the 2018 legal drama “On the Basis of Sex,” a movie about Ginsburg’s early life and career.

Earlier this week, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser spoke with the Colorado Sun about his time clerking for Ginsburg in the 1990s. “I worked harder than I ever did in my life – including now – and I never felt as much pressure,” he said. Weiser was the last person to argue a case before Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

He also spoke about clerking for Ginsburg during the 1996 landmark case United States v. Virginia, in which the Supreme Court ruled the male-only admission policy at Virginia Military Institute was unconstitutional.

“To me, she was a shining role model for what was possible as a woman, as a woman in law, as a mother of a young girl,” Hawkins said. “I feel a deep reverencea very deep sense of respectfor the pioneering work that she did that will continue to inform us for many generations to come.”