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Ruth Bader Ginsburg's 'dissent collar' donated to the Smithsonian
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg participates in a lecture named in her honor at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, Oct. 30, 2019. The “dissent” collar of the former justice who died in 2020, plus three others, the judicial robe she wore most often and other items are being donated by her family to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. T.J. Kirkpatrick/The New York Times.

by Laura Zornosa



NEW YORK, NY.- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s “dissent” collar — the one she wore on days that she gave powerful and pointed opinions at odds with the Supreme Court’s majority — is being donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Three other distinctive collars, the judicial robe that she wore most often during her more than 25 years on the court and other items are also being donated by her family to coincide with the museum’s decision to award Ginsburg its signature honor, the Great Americans Medal.

Ginsburg took pride in the utility of a well-argued dissent. “Dissents speak to a future age,” Ginsburg told NPR’s Nina Totenberg in 2002. “It’s not simply to say, ‘My colleagues are wrong, and I would do it this way.’ But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that’s the dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today but for tomorrow.”

The justice’s children, Jane and James Ginsburg, were to accept the medal and discuss their mother’s legacy with the museum’s director, Anthea M. Hartig, during the award program Wednesday.

“This generous donation helps us tell more fully the complex history of the United States and Justice Ginsburg’s connections to pivotal moments in women’s history, especially the fight for gender equity,” Hartig said in a statement. “It is an honor to steward these objects and histories at the nation’s flagship museum, as they reinforce our belief in utilizing history to enhance civic health.”

Other objects to be donated include a black leather brief case inscribed with the justice’s famous initials, RBG; 12 briefs for cases that Ginsburg argued as a lawyer, including four that she argued before the Supreme Court; the “Justice Ginsburg” name plate that identified her cart for the court library; and a copy of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 framed with a photograph of President Barack Obama signing the legislation.

(Ginsburg dissented in the 2007 court case Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. She disagreed with the court majority’s finding that Lilly Ledbetter waited too long to sue for pay discrimination and called on Congress to act. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act amended the statute of limitations on discrimination claims in the workplace.)

No plans are currently in place for exhibition of the artifacts. They will, however, be shown during the program, and will then be archived and made available online.

The presentation of the Great Americans Medal was to take place virtually at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The recipient is selected by the museum’s leadership, and the medal honors “lifetime contributions embodying American ideas and ideals.”

Other Supreme Court materials in the museum’s collection include the robe worn by Sandra Day O’Connor when she was sworn in as the first woman to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court, the robe worn by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist during the Senate impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton and a robe worn by the first chief justice, John Jay.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.










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