U.S. Supreme Court

Ginsburg family blasts plan to give RBG Award to Musk, Murdoch, others

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Late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg waves in acknowledgement of the applause she receives as she arrives for a "fireside chat" in the Bruce M. Selya Appellate Courtroom at the Roger William University Law School in Bristol, R.I. In this Jan. 30, 2018 file photo. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

The family of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg and some of the Supreme Court justice’s former colleagues have denounced this year’s slate of honorees for an award that a philanthropic foundation bestows in the name of the liberal icon.

In a statement Friday, the family called the Dwight D. Opperman Foundation’s plans to give its “Ruth Bader Ginsburg Leadership Award” to conservative billionaires Elon Musk and Rupert Murdoch, among others, “an affront to the memory of our mother and grandmother.”

Without specifically criticizing any of the honorees—who also include Martha Stewart, Sylvester Stallone and financier Michael Milken—the Ginsburg family said the foundation “has strayed far from the original mission of the award and from what Justice Ginsburg stood for.”

“Her legacy is one of deep commitment to justice and to the proposition that all persons deserve what she called ‘equal citizenship stature’ under the Constitution,” the statement said. “She was a singularly powerful voice for the equality and empowerment of women, including their ability to control their own bodies.”

The decision also drew a protest from a former Ginsburg clerk. Trevor Morrison, a former dean of New York University School of Law, wrote to foundation chair Julie Opperman Thursday that he found it “deeply worrisome” that the award would go to people whom he said “exhibit none of the values that animated the Justice’s career, and none of the things that she herself emphasized when celebrating the inauguration of the RBG Award.”

Ginsburg, a friend of the late Dwight Opperman, a lawyer and legal publisher, was still alive and gave her approval when his family’s foundation decided in 2019 to create an award in her name for powerful women.

The Ginsburgs said they had no involvement in selecting winners and weren’t given prior notice about the award changes, and added that Friday - what would’ve been the justice’s 91st birthday - would be the perfect day for the foundation to course correct.

The Opperman Foundation said Friday it has no response to the calls to amend the award.

The honor was first awarded in 2020, before the justice’s death, with the intent to recognize “an extraordinary woman who has exercised a positive and notable influence on society and served as an exemplary role model in both principles and practice.”

Amanda Tyler, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law who co-wrote “Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue: A Life’s Work Fighting for a More Perfect Union” with Ginsburg, said that any award with Ginsburg’s name should honor her legacy.

“Justice Ginsburg spent her life fighting to combat discrimination in all its many forms, to empower women to have control over their own destinies, and to open up opportunities for persons from all walks of life,” Tyler wrote. “She laid out her vision for a better world in a 2009 speech in which she said, ‘We will all profit from a more diverse, inclusive society, understanding, accommodating, even celebrating our differences, while pulling together for the common good.’”

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