Ruth Bader Ginsburg Takes Oath As First Jewish Justice Since 1969
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Ruth Bader Ginsburg Takes Oath As First Jewish Justice Since 1969

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With President Clinton standing by her side in the ornate East Room of the White House, Ruth Bader Ginsburg took the oath of office this week as the Supreme Court’s first Jewish justice in nearly a quarter of a century.

Ginsburg, also joined at the podium by her husband, Martin, was sworn in Tuesday afternoon by Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

A pioneer in the field of women’s rights legislation, Ginsburg told the crowded room of officials, reporters and family members that she hoped that during her lifetime there would be “as many sisters as brothers in law” among future federal judicial nominees.

She spoke, in the measured cadences familiar to those who watched her confirmation hearings last month, of the progress women have made in the law since the first woman lawyer in America practiced her trade in the 17th century.

Ginsburg will be the first Jewish woman on the court and only the second woman justice in the court’s history. She will be the first Jewish justice since Abe Fortas resigned in 1969.

The mood at Tuesday’s ceremony was warm, with periods of sustained applause for Ginsburg, Clinton and various others introduced during the course of the event.

Ginsburg singled out her mother-in-law, Evelyn Ginsburg, for particular praise, telling her she was “overjoyed” by her presence at the ceremony.

Also present were the justice’s children, Jane and James, and her young grandchildren, Paul and Clara.

The East Room, with its gold curtains and elaborate chandeliers, was packed to standingroom capacity, and the ceremony was accompanied by constant clicking from the cameras of the dozens of press photographers lining the back of the room.

Clinton, who smiled repeatedly throughout Ginsburg’s remarks, praised the new justice for her role as a women’s rights advocate.

“Today, virtually no segment of our society has been untouched by her efforts,” the president said, following Ginsburg’s own remarks.

SWORN IN ON A HEBREW BIBLE

He also spoke of Ginsburg’s respect for the law. “No one knows better than she that it is the law that provides the rules that permit us to live together and that permit us to overcome the infirmities, the bigotry, the prejudice, the limitations of our past and our present,” he said.

In a line that brought more sustained applause and laughter, Clinton called Martin Ginsburg, a prominent tax attorney and professor, a “national model of what a good husband ought to be.”

During the confirmation process and even before, Martin Ginsburg was notably supportive of his wife, at times serving as a sort of spokesman for her.

Seated in the front row, beaming throughout the ceremony, was Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan(D-N.Y.), who served as Ginsburg’s chief Senate backer.

As the ceremony ended, the dignitaries, who included former Chief Justice Warren Burger and former Associate Justice William Brennan, and the numerous Ginsburg relations, filed out for a reception, as a red-jacketed military band played.

Prior to the White House ceremony, Ginsburg had an earlier, private swearing-in ceremony at the court She used the chief justice’s personal Bible for that first swearing-in. And during the subsequent ceremony at the White House, she took the oath on a Hebrew Bible.

Unlike some other recent Supreme Court nominees, Ginsburg, 60, sailed through her Senate confirmation hearings and was confirmed last week by a 96-3 vote of the Senate.

In the course of her hearings, Ginsburg voiced strong support for abortion rights and strong abhorrence of discrimination, thereby putting her squarely on the side of many American can Jews.

A moderate, Ginsburg was cautions about revealing her feelings about many issues.

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