Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg received the American Bar Association’s highest award, the ABA Medal, at the group’s annual meeting in San Francisco today.
Ginsburg, 77, has served on the high court since 1993 and was appointed by Pres. Bill Clinton.
In a brief speech in which she accepted the medal, Ginsburg called for a return to the less contentious and more bipartisan Senate confirmation process that she experienced 17 years ago.
“May the U.S. Senate return to the collegial, bipartisan spirit that Justice (Stephen) Breyer and I had the good fortune to experience,” Ginsburg told the gathering.
Ginsburg, then a federal appeals court judge, was approved by a 96-3 vote of the Senate in 1993 after receiving the ABA’s highest rating, “well qualified,” for a judicial nominee.
Breyer, also appointed by Clinton, was approved by an 87-9 vote in 1994.
By contrast, the court’s newest justice, Elena Kagan, appointed by President Obama, was confirmed last week by a mostly partisan vote of 63-37.
The ABA Medal has awarded each year since 1929 to an individual for exceptionally distinguished contributions to American jurisprudence.
Ginsburg is the fourth woman to receive it. Another winner, in 1997, was the court’s now-retired first female justice, Sandra Day O’Connor.
The medal was given at a meeting of the association’s House of Delegates by ABA President Carolyn Lamm, who cited Ginsburg’s “vast and lasting contributions to the law and to the profession” over five decades and her advocacy for women’s equality.
Ginsburg said, “I have lived long enough to see great changes in our profession,” recalling that both she and O’Connor were denied jobs at law firms when they graduated from law school.
She said, “May the association thrive, aided by everyone here in the pursuit of justice that is equal and accessible to all.”
Before joining the high court, Ginsburg was a federal appeals court judge in Washington, D.C., from 1980 to 1993. She was a law professor at Rutgers University and then Columbia University between 1963 and 1980.
The ABA, based in Chicago, has nearly 400,000 members nationwide.
About 7,000 lawyers are attending the annual meeting at the Moscone Center. The meeting began Thursday and ends on Tuesday.