In her seat
This tribute is part of a series on the life and work of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Judge David S. Tatel serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
President Bill Clinton’s nomination of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court was widely acclaimed. For me, it was uniquely special because the president then nominated me to fill her seat on the D.C. Circuit. Happily, my robe now hangs in the robing room closet where the name plaque above mine reads “Judge Ruth B. Ginsburg.”
Ruth and I did not know each other very well before then, but we soon became good friends, sharing hushed conversations, dinners with mutual friends, and many wonderful law clerks. Still, I could never escape the feeling that she always had her eye on me, curious to know if the fellow occupying the Ginsburg seat was up to the task. I hope she thought I was, for her opinions were always a model for me. They are powerfully reasoned; written with care, precision, and flair; and imbued with her deep respect for the parties before the court, especially America’s most vulnerable. “Equal protection of the laws” was Justice Ginsburg’s guiding principle and life-long mission.