Law in Popular Culture

Justice Ginsburg rules for Shylock in mock appeal

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Justice Ginsburg

An appellate panel that included Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ruled on Wednesday that Shylock should get his property back, with no need to convert to Christianity, and the imposter judge who sentenced him should be sanctioned with an order to attend law school.

Ginsburg was among five judges who considered Shylock’s mock appeal in conjunction with a Venice production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, report the New York Times and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Ginsburg’s grandson played the man who ran away with Shylock’s daughter.

In the play, Shylock loans money to an anti-Semitic merchant, Antonio, with the provision that Shylock may extract a pound of flesh in the event of default. When the money isn’t repaid, the judge is Portia, the woman whose suitor asked Antonio to take the loan on his behalf.

Disguised as a man, Portia rules that Shylock can’t have the pound of flesh unless he is able to shed no blood, Portia also rules Shylock wrongly conspired against Antonio, and he must give half his property to the merchant and the other half to the state. Antonio agrees to give up his half if Shylock converts to Christianity and wills his estate to his daughter.

Ginsburg and other mock judges agreed that no court would enforce the pound of flesh requirement. Shylock should get his property and loaned money back, and there is no need to convert. She spoke with the New York Times about the mock trial.

“The conversion was sought by Antonio,” Ginsburg said. “The defendant in the case was decreeing the sanction. I never heard of a defendant in any system turning into a judge as Antonio did.”

“And finally,” she added, “after four centuries of delay in seeking payment, we think that Shylock is out of time in asking for interest.”

Part of the program also included a reading by actor F. Murray Abraham. Ginsburg traded lines with him, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency account.

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