U.S. Supreme Court

Ginsburg: Ferguson turmoil illustrates 'real racial problem' in America

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says there is a “real racial problem” in America and recent Supreme Court decisions are doing little to help.

In an interview with the National Law Journal (sub. req.), Ginsburg said the turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy illustrate the problems.

At one time, Ginsburg told the legal publication, the Supreme Court was a leader in rooting out discrimination. She pointed to the 1971 decision, Griggs v. Duke Power, that endorsed disparate-impact analysis to evaluate polices that are neutral on their face but have a disproportionate impact on minorities.

“What’s amazing,” Ginsburg said, “is how things have changed” since the 1971 decision. Recent rulings that restricted affirmative action and struck down part of the Voting Rights Act have not helped the country, she said.

Ginsburg said part of the problem is a society that is still segregated by race. That kind of segregation doesn’t exist with gays, and it has led to increasing acceptance, she said. “Once [gay] people began to say who they were, you found that it was your next-door neighbor or it could be your child, and we found people we admired,” she said. “That understanding still doesn’t exist with race; you still have separation of neighborhoods, where the races are not mixed. It’s the familiarity with people who are gay that still doesn’t exist for race and will remain that way for a long time as long as where we live remains divided.”

Ginsburg also said she disliked the idea of completing law school in two years. Two years “makes it more of a craft like the training you need to be a good plumber,” she said. “If you just needed the skills to pass the bar, two years would be enough. But if you think of law as a learned profession, then a third year is an opportunity for, on the one hand, public service and practice experience, but on the other, also to take courses that round out the law that you didn’t have time to do.”

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