Remembering RBG

In September, when we heard news of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's passing, the Bulletin reached out to some Mawrters who knew the Supreme Court justice. Below, former U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow '71 and Ilana Rovner '60 share their remembrances. 

Margaret Morrow '71: When I first became a federal judge, I had the opportunity to attend a dinner at the Supreme Court. Justice Ginsburg came up to me and asked me if I was Margaret Morrow. I was surprised that she even knew my name.

She told me that she had written an article for an Australian law review about the U.S. judicial confirmation process and that she had discussed me in the article. She said she would send me a copy. I never expected that she would follow through, but she did. I have her letter and her article and treasure them.

She was a genuine hero for women lawyers like me who came into the profession when it was not open to women and we had the deck stacked against us. She made it possible. She made it happen. She is a giant in the world of gender equity. She is a giant in the world of civil rights. We will miss her terribly!

Margaret Morrow '71, a former U.S. District Judge for the Central District of California and emeritus trustee of Bryn Mawr College, is president and CEO of Public Counsel, the country's largest pro bono public interest law firm. Throughout her career, Morrow has focused on ensuring equal access to justice and equal rights. Before her appointment to the federal court in 1998, she was a partner in Arnold & Porter and, before that, a founding partner of Quinn, Kully & Morrow and a partner at Kadison, Pfaelzer, Woodard, Quinn & Rossi. From 1993 to 1994, she served as president of the State Bar of California, the first woman president to do so. 

Ilana Rovner '60: My late husband, Dr. Richard Rovner, was friendly at Cornell University with Marty Ginsburg and Kiki, as Ruth was known by one and all. Thus, the following story:

I had been elevated from the United States District Court to the United States Court of Appeals when Ruth was nominated to the Supreme Court. A reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times called and asked, “What can you tell me about Ruth Bader Ginsburg?” I replied, “I am thrilled, but I think Dick would be able to tell you something you could not learn otherwise about her.” About 10 minutes later, the phone rang. It was the reporter. “You are lucky,” she said, “that I am a friend of yours and so I will not print what Dick said.” “What did he say?” I asked. The response: “She was blonde, she was cute, but she was taken. I had to settle for the second tier of courts."

Many years later, I had the great good fortune to sit with Ruth on the bench twice on moot courts, at Columbia Law School and at Harvard Law School.

She is a loss of unfathomable proportions.

Ilana Rovner ’60, a Circuit Court Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, was the first woman appointed to the Seventh Circuit. She served previously as a district judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Prior to that, she served as deputy governor and legal counsel for the Illinois governor from 1977 to 1984 and in various roles in the office of the U.S. Attorney of the Northern District of Illinois.