Meeting Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

By Brooke LePage ’19

Contributing Writer

My name is Brooke LePage and I am a rising Public Policy & Law major at Trinity College. This fall, I am partaking in a Washington Semester Program through American University.

Through this program, I am taking an American Politics I Seminar, an elective course called Political Communication, and interning three days a week at the United States Department of Education in the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs. There are four interns in my office and each of us has an area of education policy we specialize in. Inspired by the Public Policy and Law Title IX course I took at Trinity last fall, my focus area is higher education policy.

Both of my classes are not lectures. Rather, they are a mix of lecture, seminar-style discussions, and guest speakers. On October 17th, my American Politics I Seminar had the pleasure of going to the United States Supreme Court where Justice Ginsburg was our class guest speaker. How my professor—along with the professor of the Justice & Law Seminar—was able to organize this incredible opportunity for us, I will never know.

Justice Ginsburg spoke to us in the East Conference room of the Supreme Court. Everything in that room, from the divine ceiling to the windows overlooking a terrace garden, was magnificent. My class of 20 students from colleges across the country, along with the 20 students from the Justice & Law Seminar, sat perched in our seats waiting for Justice Ginsburg to arrive.

We were nervous and excited at the same time. We all stood as she entered the room. After telling us to be seated, she began talking about all of the portraits of a few past Chief Justices around the room. Finally, she told us she would take three questions which she later extended to four.

Each student had a question prepared, yet we were all extremely nervous to stand up, introduce ourselves, and ask one of the greatest legal minds a question. Knowing that I was in the front row and had a good chance to be picked and that I would always regret if I did not raise my hand, I shot my arm in the air. I ended up being one of the four people that got to ask Justice Ginsburg a question.

Due to my interests, I knew that I wanted to ask her a question about Title IX. More specifically, I wanted to ask her about due process, or lack thereof, during Title IX investigations on college campuses. Yet, because we could not ask anything too recent, I had to scale my question back. I ended up asking Justice Ginsburg how one applies intermediate scrutiny to a Title IX investigation—a question my professor helped me craft.

Ultimately, I wish I could say that I remember asking my question. The second I stood up, I was full of such adrenaline and awe, that all of my thoughts went out the window. My classmates say I was poised and my question was coherent but I am merely taking their word on that. Through my question and another of the other three students, Justice Ginsburg talked about how gender discrimination and the role of women in law has changed so greatly over time.

I am so grateful that I took part in the Washington Semester Program. I am even more grateful that Trinity’s Public Policy & Law program made me confident enough to sit in the front row, raise my hand, and ask a Supreme Court Justice a legal question.

The podium wherefrom Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke to Brooke and other students.

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