With the passing of Supreme Court justice and cultural icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we asked Michael S. Hindus to share a few of her “greatest hits”: influential decisions that have supported equality and improved the lives of women and men around the country.
Michael Hindus earned his AB from Columbia, his PhD in history from Berkeley, and his JD from Harvard Law School. He has written two books and numerous articles in legal history. Hindus taught legal history at the University of Minnesota and Stanford Law School and currently teaches a seminar in legal history at Columbia. An attorney in private practice for nearly four decades, he became a partner in the San Francisco office of an international law firm where he specialized in renewable energy.
Join Hindus for his upcoming four-part online SAR In-Depth course, Topics in American Legal History: The Rule of Law, which will examine major themes in the history of American law from the legacy of the Magna Carta to the most significant recent decisions of the Supreme Court.
Charles E. Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 469 F.2d 466 (10th Cir. 1972)
This case, a seemingly obscure tax ruling, signaled the end of discrimination based on sex. The government had held that Moritz was not entitled to a deduction for expenses for the care of his dependent, invalid mother because he was a single man who had never married, the deduction being limited to a woman, widower, or divorcee, or a husband whose wife was incapacitated or institutionalized. The court held “that the classification is an invidious discrimination and invalid under due process principles.” Ginsburg argued this case along with her husband, Martin Ginsburg, a noted tax attorney.
U.S. v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515 (1966)
This case, in which Justice Ginsburg wrote the opinion, overturned the state-supported Virginia Military Institute’s male-only policy as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber, 550 U.S. 618 (2007)
This case held that Lilly Ledbetter’s unequal pay discrimination case was invalid because of the statute of limitations, even though Ledbetter did not have timely access to the information necessary to establish her claim. Congress responded by passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, the first Act of Congress approved during the Obama administration.
Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. 529 (2013)
This case eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and engendered one of the sharpest dissents of Ginsburg’s long career.