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Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
University of California Press, 2021

Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue is a posthumous book by American jurist and Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg, published in March 2021 by University of California Press. Titled after a passage in the Torah (Deuteronomy 16:20), the book is a detailed curation of Bader Ginsburg’s legacy. It consists of a collection of materials, many of which unpublished, from Bader Ginsburg’s career and family life, including briefs and oral arguments as an advocate for gender equality, bench announcements, opinions, and public speeches.

Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue is the result of a yearlong collaboration between Bader Ginsburg and Amanda L. Tyler, a Berkeley Law professor and former Ginsburg law clerk between 1999 and 2000. The project started in 2019, when Ginsburg visited the University of California, Berkeley, to deliver the Herma Hill Kay Memorial Lecture, in honour of her late friend Herma Hill Kay, with whom Ginsburg had coauthored the very first casebook on sex-based discrimination in 1974. After Ginsburg’s death on September 18, 2020, Tyler took care of bringing the book to publication.

Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue, which also contains pictures from Bader Ginsburg’s private and political life, starts with the Herma Hill Kay Memorial Lecture transcript, followed by that of her conversation with Amanda L. Tyler. A second section provides Bader Ginsburg’s briefs and oral arguments as an advocate for gender equality, followed by four bench announcements from her 27 years as an Associate Justice at the US Supreme Court. The book ends with three speeches delivered by Bader Ginsburg on three different occasions, including her remarks upon receiving the Genesis Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018. On that occasion, Bader Ginsburg mentions a number of female Jewish leaders who came before her as her inspirers.

In a recent interview, Amanda L. Tyler described how the project came into being and the criteria through which Bader Ginsburg chose to craft what she considered to be her legacy for the future. The choice of including her dissents, for example, was driven by the idea that, although she lost in these cases, Bader Ginsburg “wanted people to read these dissents and keep fighting these fights”.

Tyler, who describes Bader Ginsburg as “an extraordinary human being and role model”, who taught her that "real people’s lives and livelihoods at stake” lied behind the Court’s work, said that the book’s title reflects Justice Ginsburg’s deep relationship with her Jewish identity and the importance of this latter in her work ethic. Justice Ginsburg, said Tyler, had a piece of art with the quote “Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue” both in English and Hebrew on the wall of her chambers: “it was a guiding principle in her life. It’s something that connects back to her Jewish identity, but even more broadly, it was part of her teaching that in this life you should pursue justice and make it a central tenet of who you are. It seemed a natural title for the book”.

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