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Excerpt: "In 2007, five men on the Supreme Court told Lilly Ledbetter that she was out of luck. Ledbetter, after two decades working as the only female supervisor at a Goodyear tire plant in Alabama, had sued her employer for wage discrimination. ... Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, at that time the only woman on the Supreme Court, took the unusual step of reading her dissenting opinion from the bench, accusing the five-Justice majority of not understanding the reality of Ledbetter's situation. She declared, 'In our view, the court does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination.'"

As more women graduate from law schools, some presidents have made it a priority to have the federal courts reflect the people they serve. (photo: public domain)
As more women graduate from law schools, some presidents have made it a priority to have the federal courts reflect the people they serve. (photo: public domain)



The War on Women in the Courts

By Marge Baker, Ms. Magazine

08 March 12

 

n 2007, five men on the Supreme Court told Lilly Ledbetter that she was out of luck. Ledbetter, after two decades working as the only female supervisor at a Goodyear tire plant in Alabama, had sued her employer for wage discrimination - she had discovered that for all those years she had been paid less than male colleagues doing the same job. But the Supreme Court told her that the way they did the math it was too late for her to sue.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, at that time the only woman on the Supreme Court, took the unusual step of reading her dissenting opinion from the bench, accusing the five-Justice majority of not understanding the reality of Ledbetter's situation. She declared, "In our view, the court does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination."

The Ledbetter case was a stark example of what it means to have women judges and justices on the bench. Many great pro-equality decisions have been made by male judges, and women judges are by no means guaranteed to rule in favor of female litigants. But having women on the courts means that women's voices are heard in the halls of justice.

Cases before the Supreme Court, and the confirmation of Supreme Court justices, get plenty of attention. But for every Lilly Ledbetter there are hundreds of Americans seeking justice from federal courts across the country. When Ruth Bader Ginsburg graduated from law school in 1959, there were two women on the federal courts. By the time she read her dissent in Ledbetter, approximately a quarter of federal judges were women. Today, women make up nearly one third of the federal judiciary.

The increase in women in the courts has not happened by accident. As more women graduate from law schools, some presidents have made it a priority to have the federal courts reflect the people they serve. It's well known that President Obama picked two women - Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan - to sit on the Supreme Court. Less noticed has been his unprecedented success in bringing women to federal courts throughout the country. Almost half of President Obama's confirmed judicial nominees have been women. Only one fifth of George W. Bush's were [PDF].

President Obama has made no secret of his goal to make the American courts look like America. Along with the effort to bring more women to the bench, roughly 36 percent of his nominees have been people of color, and he has nominated more openly lesbian and gay individuals to the federal courts than all his predecessors combined.

But the president's effort to bring a diversity of voices to the federal courts is now facing a major roadblock. Senate Republicans have been obstructing President Obama's judicial nominees to an unprecedented extent - usually not because of objections to the nominees themselves, but just for the sake of creating gridlock. Indeed, most of President Obama's nominees have been approved by the Judiciary Committee with unanimous or near-unanimous bipartisan support. Nevertheless, after committee approval, Republicans in the Senate have forced the president's nominees to wait four times longer to get a yes-or-no vote than President Bush's nominees at the same point in his term.

As a result, about one out of ten courtrooms in the country are vacant and Americans are facing inexcusable delays as they seek their day in court. One of President Obama's least-noticed but most long-lasting achievements - putting a qualified, diverse group of judges on our federal courts - has been put at risk.

Senate Democrats have signaled that they will try to push through the 18 judicial nominees currently waiting for votes, including seven women and eight people of color. But they can only do it if Americans - and especially women - speak out about the importance of filling our courts.

 

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+90 # Barbara K 2012-03-08 16:01
There are millions of women who spent their working careers making less money than men for doing the same job. Then at one point there was a law passed that required equal pay for equal work. What happened to that law? Why is it not being enforced? Let's work on getting it enforced.

VOTE STRAIGHT DEMOCRAT AT ALL LEVELS

our future is at stake
 
 
-53 # Jerry 2012-03-08 18:17
Except for President this time. This murdering thug who requested the right to inprison people, including Americans, without judicial input, now claims the power to kill them as he chooses. These actions must be repudiated.
 
 
+46 # pazyluz 2012-03-08 16:14
Can women finally be more than walking breathing uteri, if so we can finally get to the real issues eroding female empowerment.
 
 
+31 # noitall 2012-03-08 17:01
Barbara K hits the nail on the head; there are laws, just enforce them. Unfortunately, it seems that interpretation is an issue; laws are not interpreted equally. What's next? women getting accused of class warfare because they want equal pay, equal consideration, equal protections? As precedent is set by questionable court decisions, ground is lost in the battle for equality in all areas, on all levels. I can remember when there was a clear distinction between Republican and Democratic positions, now we seem to have two advocates for positions that work against the common citizen. This can't be good for the country (as we see daily).
 
 
+42 # Risa de Angel 2012-03-08 17:06
Excellent, urgently important article. Of 82 judgeships sitting empty, 34 are considered judicial emergencies. Yet 12 of the highly qualified 18 nominees have been ready for a vote since last year. Meanwhile, we the people are also made to wait since the time it takes to resolve civil cases just keeps getting longer. To tell your Senators to do their job and vote on ALL judicial nominees ASAP, see this National Women's Law Center link:
http://action.nwlc.org/site/Advocacy?s_oo=kwCm-JmTaEkw3UZTcRZnoQ&id=693
 
 
+40 # Art947 2012-03-08 17:33
This article clearly shows that the Republican members of the Senate should have forfeited their right to make politcal judgments that affect us all. They swore an oath of office to preserve and protect the Constitution of the US. By their actions they have demonstrated that they lied when they took that oath. It is time for them to resign or be voted out of office.

While I do cannot agree with the all the decisions that have been made by ideologically-d riven judges, I know that our court system cannot function at all without an appropriate number of judges staffing the courts. The ability of Americans to have their "day in court" is jeopardized when these seats are not filled. Remember the old adage: justice delayed is justice denied.
 
 
+39 # dick 2012-03-08 18:09
Among Americans eligible to vote, women outnumber men by MILLIONS. Voters pick the decision makers. If women, and supportive men, would deliver STUNNING defeats in this year's elections to those who would limit women's freedoms, & pack courts against women, politicians would remember it for a long time. It's actually hard to imagine an excuse for not doing so, true?
If you're a commenter on RSN, send some $$ now. Don't just freeload off others, please.
 
 
+30 # cordleycoit 2012-03-08 18:31
The R side of both houses seem to be filled with empty suits. They are the party of harsh justice. But they won't a;;ow the seats on bench filled. It's like last summer when they pulled the rug on the stock market playing God wit the debt. Hey these are men keeping women in their perceived place. The American Taliban.
 
 
+39 # lorenbliss 2012-03-08 18:39
Lest we forget, International Women's Day is also the date 95 years ago the 5,000 women of the Lesnoy Textile Works walked off the job because management had just fired five co-workers who were trying to organize a union in the plant.

Enraged, the strikers boiled into the streets of the Petrograd industrial suburb and began marching toward the center of the city and the Tsar's Winter Palace. Their footfalls were loud on the frozen pavement; their chants of "Bread! Peace!" echoed off the surrounding factory walls.

Soon they were joined by 5,000 men from the Putilov Machine Works, and by the time they reached the Neva River bridges, they numbered 300,000, at least half the marchers women.

Their courage is beyond description. Cossacks with drawn sabres and soldiers with machine guns and fixed bayonets turned them away from two of the bridges, but still the marchers persisted.

And at the third bridge -- some say because the marchers convinced the Cossacks and soldiers that to attack so many women was to attack Mother Russia herself -- the barricades gave way and the march moved into Petrograd proper, doubling then doubling at least once more in size.

Again and again, the Cossacks refused to charge; repeatedly, the soldiers refused to fire; the police fled in terror. The Tsarist authorities were paralyzed with fear; they had never imagined such things.

Thus passed the first day of the Russian Revolution...
 
 
+25 # dick 2012-03-08 18:41
If fewer women had voted for Bush, or more for his opponents, there would be no Roberts court or Citizens United. I know. It's even more so true of men. But men have severe limitations. "Ug. Me take out garbage, watch football players collect bounties."
 
 
+12 # acohen8919 2012-03-08 19:39
I get that this is meant to be funny, but the issues between the genders these days (and the fact that I have a wonderful son) make me recoil at your characterizatio n of men (though I gather you are one)
 
 
+14 # bluepilgrim 2012-03-08 23:21
Something which often escapes people's notice, apparently, is that women being underpaid creates a tremendous hit on the children of single women -- half of whom grow up to be men. It also hurts a family where hubby is unemployed. These two categories are huge, and growing.

Add to that the huge loss of productivity from women who might have entered into careers as leaders in their fields.

The consequences go on and on...

You can't cut off one hand and expect the other to be as healthy as before, and about the same works for a society which cuts off half it's population from justice.
 
 
+4 # skydog70 2012-03-08 19:13
This is sorta what's to be expected when you splinter into different groups, then make war on all men just for being men. One day the Yahoos get into power and then everybody loses. Oh, wait that's been already 30 years now.
 
 
+33 # fredboy 2012-03-08 19:21
Time for all women to stand up. Most men, the good ones, will stand with them.
 
 
+25 # reiverpacific 2012-03-08 20:00
As "Dick" reminds us, we have to deal with an unprecedentedly corrupt Supreme Lawyers-with-Ro bes, one dating back to the public crucifixion of Anita Hill, which if anybody remembers, was a close vote for "Uncle Tom's" confirmation -4 "yeahs" if my memory serves me a'right including quite a few Democrats who have since had cause to regret their votes much of it which can be laid at the feet of the fourth estate and it's sensation-mongering.
The blowback, from the reactionary point of view, was an increased awareness of women's place in the overall scheme of things and tho' Ms Hill was the sacrificial lamb it was not in vain.
This is just a war women seem to have to fight again and again and I'm with them all the way -it's so Goddamn stupid!
By the way, did y'all hear that "Our bad guy" Hamid Karzai, has just approved a resolution in Afghanistan which affirms women as subservient or secondary-statu s to their husbands whom they must always obey and who can now officially beat them for even suspicion of anything he does not like! The Taliban couldn't ha' done much better and so many young Amricans and others have died for a lie in an intractable and immovable medievalist regime just on suspicion of involvement somehow in 9-11 and which even has admitted, via it's on front line generals, it's ignorance of the area.
 
 
+6 # uglysexy 2012-03-08 20:02
How about the war on rent controlled Tenants in the Court? Half of whom are Women. This could result in a Pogrom of the working poor and middle class from NYC, San Francisco, Berkeley, Santa Monica and Los Angeles by the Roberts Court. Well isn't that special....all of them Liberal Bastions
http://blogs.wsj.com/metropolis/2012/03/06/the-legal-war-over-new-yorks-rent-regulations/
 
 
+14 # dick 2012-03-08 22:32
I think sinister males turned the "ministry" of Jesus upside down to retain control of women. Wouldn't it be nice if men of all faiths respected women as (at Least) equals, rather than using control of institutions & ideologies to undermine females. Women, & confident, fair minded men, should vote so as to win virtually ALL elections, write ALL laws, make ALL appointments, then use their #s & moral high ground to throw the male supremacists out of the temples. Not for spiritual reasons, but for smart, humane reasons.
 
 
+3 # ChickenBoo 2012-03-09 11:30
Quoting dick:
I think sinister males turned the "ministry" of Jesus upside down to retain control of women. Wouldn't it be nice if men of all faiths respected women as (at Least) equals, rather than using control of institutions & ideologies to undermine females. Women, & confident, fair minded men, should vote so as to win virtually ALL elections, write ALL laws, make ALL appointments, then use their #s & moral high ground to throw the male supremacists out of the temples. Not for spiritual reasons, but for smart, humane reasons.

Great Post, Dick. There is a fine line between "Christianity" and the Muslim ways. Read the old Testament and you'll be shocked at what "God" supposedly said. Words right out of the Taliban! I think these right wing "Christians" (I use quotations around the word Christians since I don't believe these people are real Christians at all. Christ would never have approved of what they are attempting to do.)and Republicans would LOVE to see a form of Sharia law imposed in America.
 
 
+7 # Peace Anonymous 2012-03-09 03:00
Excellent article. As I read this I think about the Republican nominees who are doing everything they can to return to 1930. I am standing with fredboy and women not only here but around the world. How can we be an example of equality to people around the world if we let the gang of white men (I am a caucasion male) force their worn out beliefs down our throats?
 
 
+3 # reiverpacific 2012-03-09 13:46
Quoting Peace Anonymous:
Excellent article. As I read this I think about the Republican nominees who are doing everything they can to return to 1930. I am standing with fredboy and women not only here but around the world. How can we be an example of equality to people around the world if we let the gang of white men (I am a caucasion male) force their worn out beliefs down our throats?

More like 1730, what?
 
 
-1 # Buddha 2012-03-09 16:57
If we weren't a Gulag state fueled by our horrible Drug War, and one where just about anything the State says is illegal can be interpreted that as such, if they choose to go after you (YouTube "Illegal Everything), we wouldn't need so many courts and justices. I'm just saying.
 
 
+4 # 1984 2012-03-10 11:47
I think the biggest obstacle women face in securing their rights is that there are too many women against women! We are not unified.
It's like Joe the Plumber voting in favor of a bill which taxes plumbers 3X the top tax bracket.
 
 
+5 # Eliza D 2012-03-10 13:06
Barbara K-The ERA, incredibly, has never received the ratification of the required number of states to be passed, so it has been dead in the water since 1982. I'm elated President Obama has such a formidable record of placing women in high positions. After all 60% of all college graduates are now female and will be a more and more potent force in the country. Yet another reason we cannot afford to have a reactionary, misogynistic Republican in the White House such as Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney, who told a Mormon congregant that she must surrender her born-out -of wedlock baby for adoption or be excommunicated. Blue Pilgrim, you are so right in pointing out that men who support these anti-female decisions are forgetting that there are many women who are raising boys alone who are negatively affected. I hope all of you who post on here are writing to support Obama's actions on this matter and descry the wrong-headed war on women by other politicos who supposedly represent females too.
 

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