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CNN Films Features "RBG," Honoring Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired September 19, 2020 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[22:00:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This witch, this evil-doer, this monster --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She has no respect for the traditions of our Constitution, none.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The absolute disgrace to the Supreme Court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's one of the most vile human beings, wicked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's very wicked, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is anti-American.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's a zombie. The woman is a zombie, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG, SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 26, 25, 24, 23, 21, 20, 19.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How is your health?

R. GINSBURG: I'm feeling just fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here now to come in is Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

NINA TOTENBERG, NPR CORRESPONDENT: It's an amazing thing to see somebody in her 80s become such an icon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you mind signing this copy.

R. GINSBURG: I am 84 years old and everyone want to take a picture with me.

GLORIA STEINEM, WRITER AND ACTIVIST: She is really, I think come right down to the closest thing to a super hero I know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We call her notorious RBG, that's her rap name.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Notorious RBG.

ANA KITTNER, CHILDHOOD FRIEND OF RUTH BADEN GINSBURG: Yes. The notorious

HARRYETTE HELSEL, CHILDHOOD FRIEND OF RUTH BADEN GINSBURG: RGB

KITTNER: The RBG, right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The things were Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, getting a lot of attention after she delivered a scathing dissent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether you agree with her or not, you've got to acknowledge she's been a force on that court.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Liberal hero Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As much as people admire her, they don't even know the half of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was the queen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ruth knew what she was doing in laying the foundation, to put women on exactly the same plane as men.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ruth Bader Ginsburg quite literally changed the way the world is for American women.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee welcomes Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the president's nominee to be Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

FORMER SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Judge, do you swear that the testimony you're about to give will be the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

R. GINSBURG: I do, Mr. Chairman.

BIDEN: Thank you.

R. GINSBURG: I am a Brooklynite, born and bred, a first generation American on my father's side, barely second generation on my mother's. What has become of me could happen only in America.

Neither of my parents had the means to attend college, but both taught me to love learning, to care about people and to work hard for whatever I wanted or believed in.

[22:05:07]

My father was from Odessa. And during his growing up years, Jews were no longer admitted to the Russian schools. Education was terribly important.

My mother was loving but also very strict, making sure that I did my homework, practiced the piano, didn't stay out jumping rope too long.

I loved to do things that boys did when I was growing up. One of our favorite was climbing garage roofs from another to another, leaping, leaping over.

HELSEL: Justice Ginsburg, we cannot call Ruth.

KITTNER: Right.

HELSEL: We call her Kiki.

KITTNER: She was beautiful, big beautiful blue eyes which you really can't see very well behind her glasses, very soft brown hair. She had this kind of quiet magnetism even though she was not effusive.

HELSEL: You always thought that she wasn't listening and she didn't know what was going on, but she knew what was going on.

KITTNER: And she didn't do small talk.

HELSEL: No, no small talk.

KITTNER: And she didn't do girl chat.

HELSEL: No.

KITTNER: And she didn't get on the phone and talk with us about what happened on the weekend.

HELSEL: She's a deep thinker. She's an only child?

KITTNER: No.

HELSEL: She had a sister, I didn't know her sister.

KITTNER: Her sister passed away.

HELSEL: But she and her mom were very close, very, very close.

R. GINSBURG: My mother died when I was 17. I wish I could have had her longer.

TOTENBERG: Well, her mother must have been a very steely person because she had cancer a long time and lived trying to get her child through high school.

KITTNER: We were supposed to be at graduation, and then the night before, we got a message that she would not be able to be part of this. We knew then that her mother had passed away.

R. GINSBURG: She had two lessons that she repeated over and over. Be a lady, and be independent. Be a lady meant don't allow yourself to be overcome by useless emotions, like anger, and by independent, she meant it would be fine if you met prince charming and lived happily ever after, but be able to fend for yourself. In my lifetime, I expect to see three, four, perhaps even more women on the high court bench, women not shaped from the same mold but of different complexions.

I surely would not be in this room today without the determined efforts of men and women who kept dreams of equal citizenship alive.

I have had the great good fortune to share life with a partner, truly extraordinary for his generation, a man who believed at age 18 when we met that a woman's work, whether at home or on the job, is as important as a man's.

I became a lawyer in days when women were not wanted by most members of the legal profession. I became a lawyer because Marty supported that choice unreservedly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So what was it about Marty?

R. GINSBURG: Marty and I met when I was 17. He was 18. I was in college. Cornell was a preferred school for daughters.

In those days there was a strict quota for women. There were four men to every woman. So, for parents, Cornell was the ideal place to send a girl.

[22:10:02]

If she couldn't find her man there, she was hopeless.

My first semester at Cornell, I never did a repeat date. But then I met Marty and there was something amazingly wonderful about this man. He was the first boy I ever knew who cared that I had a brain. Most guys in the '50s didn't. One of the sadness is about the brilliant girls who attended Cornell is that they kind of suppressed how smart they were. But Marty was so confident of his own ability, so comfortable with himself that he never regarded me as any kind of a threat.

PROFESSOR ARTHUR MILLER, LONGTIME FRIEND: We all were struck by the tremendous difference between Marty and Ruth. Marty was the most gregarious, outgoing, life of the party. Ruth was really quite recessive, in a way, shy, quiet, soft voice, but they worked, they worked.

R. GINSBURG: He's so young. Meeting Marty was by far the most fortunate thing that ever happened to me. Marty was a man blessed with a wonderful sense of humor. I tend to be rather sober.

In those days, it was not a great time for our country. There was a red scare abroad in the land.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you a member of the communist party or have you ever been a member of the communist party?

JOHN HOWARD LAWSON, SCREENWRITER: It's unfortunate and tragic that I have to teach this committee the basic principle of (INAUDIBLE). UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not the question. That's not the question.

R. GINSBURG: I had a government professor and he wanted me to see that our country was straying from its most basic values by some of our politicians who were seeing communist in every closet, but that there were lawyers who were defending the rights of these people to think, to speak, to write freely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand away from the stand.

LAWSON: I fight for the bill of rights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Officer, take this man away from the stand.

R. GINSBURG: And then I got the idea that you could do something that would make your society a little better. My family had some reservations about this. But then when I married at the end of college, my family said, well, she wants to be a lawyer. Let her try. If she can't succeed, she will have a husband to support her.

CLARA SPERA, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL 2017: That's me waiting to get my diploma, very happy. That's a nice one.

My brother and cousins and I all call her Bubby. It's a Yiddish word for a grandmother. It's what we've always called Bubby.

SPERA: Bubby.

R. GINSBURG: Yes?

SPERA: Do you know if you have fake sugar, like Splenda or sweet 'n low?

R. GINSBURG: Yes, it should be some place.

SPERA: That's helpful.

R. GINSBURG: Here.

SPERA: I feel like I have my grandmotherly relationship with her but also somewhat of a student and scholarly relationship to her as well now. She taught me that the way to win an argument is not to yell because often that will turn people away more so than bringing them to your table.

I don't know what this is, I can't tell it.

R. GINSBURG: Well, it's only a dedication to the Harvard Law School and efforts on its behalf.

SPERA: You know this was the 200th year of Harvard, so it took 200 years for us -- you know, we were the first class, that was 50-50 woman, so 50 percent men -- we're the first class, and takes one to note, yes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [22:15:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Woman did not come in to the Harvard Law School until the very early 50's. 2 percent was about what it was back then.

R. GINSBURG: How did it feel to be one of nine women in a class of over 500 men? You felt you were constantly on display. So if you were called on in class, you felt that if you didn't perform well, you were failing not just for yourself but for all women. It also had that uncomfortable feeling that you were being watched.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American antitrust laws --

BRENDA FEIGEN, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL GRADUATE: Harvard was - message so that the professor would ask a question and then you would be called on to answer. The way it worked with women was they didn't call on us. I think they were afraid we would sort of wither if we were subjected to that kind of questioning.

R. GINSBURG: When I was sent to check a periodical in Lamont Library in the old periodical room, there was a man at the door, and he said you can't come in. Well, why can't I come in? Because you're a female. There was nothing I could say. This was a university employee that you can't come into that room.

[22:20:00]

When I got to Harvard Law School and I'm really intimidated that first year, Marty was saying, oh, my wife. She's going to be on The Law Review. And there was a woman in the class ahead of mine. And she said this husband of yours is boasting it. You're going to be on The Law Review? You look like a little twerp.

MILLER: To make The Law Review in those days, you had to be in the top 25 academically of 535, 540. Her second year, she makes The Law Review. So the mere fact marked her as something special.

R. GINSBURG: It turned out that I did very well the first year, and I attributed to having something very important in my life that wasn't the law books.

I came to Harvard as the mother of a 14-month-old child. I'd go to school, study as hard as I can in a very concentrated way. I didn't waste any time. 4:00 in the afternoon, our babysitter left, and that was my child's hours until she went to sleep.

Playing with my daughter gave me a respite from the kind of work I was doing at law school and I think made me more sane.

MILLER: We knew that Marty was ill. We just knew he had his own battle. And Ruth is now caring for both Marty and Jane.

R. GINSBURG: Marty in his third year of law school had cancer. And days when there was no chemotherapy, there was only massive radiation, he'd go for the radiation, wake up about midnight when the only food that he ate for the day he could manage. And then I started typing the notes that his classmates had given me from his classes, reading whatever cases I would read from the next day, and maybe I got two hours of sleep.

HELSEL: She did her own work, helped her husband with his work, organized his friends so they could help him with his work and took of her two-year-old child. Fortunately, Marty lived, but it's when she learned how to burn the candle at both ends.

JAMES GINSBURG, SON OF RUTH BADER GINSBURG: One of the memories of my childhood would be waking up in the middle of the night. There, mom would be spread out over the dining room table with her legal pads and the coffee in one hand and the box of prunes at the other.

JANE GINSBURG, DAUGHTER OF RUTH BADER GINSBURG: She will work until 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 in the morning, sometimes even later and then she will get up. She has a sitting. She would have to be at the court before nine and then she sleeps the entire weekend so she catches up.

LISA BEATTIE FRELINGHUYSEN, FORMER CLERK OF RUTH BADER GINGSBURG: The sweet thing about working for a justice who works extremely hard is that we saw Marty come to our chambers often, to lure her home. He would say, Ruth, it's time to come home for dinner. She sometimes had to be physically brought home.

MILLER: Marty graduated from the Harvard Law School and was going to a firm in New York. That was when Ruth finished her second year. Given Marty, given his recent illness, they had to remain together, and the logical place was New York, and the best option was Columbia.

R. GINSBURG: When I graduated from Columbia Law School in 1959, not a law firm in the entire city of New York would employ me.

MILLER: Four of us from my class, Marty's class, went to the same law firm, and two of us went to the hiring partner and said, we had somebody on the Harvard Law Review that we think is the cat's meow. We think this firm should hire her. As soon as I used the she pronoun, the senior partner looked at me and he says, young man, you don't seem to understand, this firm doesn't hire women.

[22:25:04]

WENDY WILLIAMS, BIOGRAPHER: She hadn't quite figured out why it was that there were these barriers.

MARY HARTNETT, BIOGRAPHER: That wasn't until later that this all came together and became her life's work.

WILLIAMS: yes.

HARTNETT: In fighting these injustices.

R. GINSBURG: Being a woman was an impediment.

TOTENBERG: We did not have equal rights and equal recognition in the law at all. There were not hundreds but thousands of state and federal laws all over this country that discriminated on the basis of gender. R. GINSBURG: Typical laws of the time, like the husband is the master

of the community. And he shall choose where the family will live, and the woman is obliged to follow him.

TOTENBERG: There's no aspect of American life in which you were not treated differently.

R. GINSBURG: The idea was that men were the breadwinners that counted and women were pin money earners. So women woke up and complained.

STEINEM: There came to be such a mass in the majority of women really who understood that they were not crazy. The system was crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, thanks to the spirit of equality in the air, I no longer accept society's judgment that my group is second class.

WILLIAMS: But marching and demonstrating just wasn't Ruth's thing. Her thing was to use the skills she had and put them to work, and those were her legal skills.

HARTNETT: 1963, she started at Rutgers as a law professor.

WILLIAMS: And really inspired by her students, she agreed to teach a course in this new subject of gender and law. That's also when she began dealing with sex discrimination cases. And that was her entree into becoming a litigator.

ARYEH NEIER, FORMER DIRECTOR, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERALS UNION: The emergence of women's rights movement had the possibility of playing the role in the 1970s that the black civil rights movement had played in the 1960s. And so I was particularly eager to create a special project dealing with women's rights.

FEIGEN: I got a call from the ACLU asking me if I would consider running the women's rights project with Professor Ruth Bader Ginsburgm whom I had heard of but did not know. I met Ruth the first day I was there. She seemed very polite and quiet and reserved, not a fire brand.

NETER: She wouldn't speak up a great deal during meetings. She always addressed whatever point there was. There wasn't any peripheral element of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No small talk.

NETER: No small talk, none that I can recall.

FEIGEN: At that point in time, Ruth was developing her philosophy to take cases that would make good law. If the case is going to be on its way to the Supreme Court, we wanted to be involved, and we wanted to frankly take over the case.

FEIGEN: She was following in the to the footsteps of the great civil rights lawyer, Thurgood Marshall, who was the architect of the battle for racial equality, basing it on the clause of the Constitution that guarantees equal protection of the law. She wanted it to apply to equal protection for women.

R. GINSBURG: My first argument before the U.S. Supreme Court was in Frontiero V. Richardson.

SHARRON FRONTIERO, PLAINTIFF: I was way back in the 1970s a second lieutenant in the Air Force.

[22:30:00]

I went in the military because I needed money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who says a woman has to settle for a routine job just because she's a woman? Discover the United States Air Force, and you'll discover the world.

FRONTIERO: I was newly out of college. This was a new job. I had just married, so it was the start of new everything.

It became clear pretty quickly that the men I was working with who were married got a housing allowance and I wasn't getting paid a housing allowance because I was a woman. I assumed it was a mistake.

So I went off to the pay office to correct the mistake. You're lucky we let you in here at all. You're lucky that the Air Force allows you to serve was what I heard right off the bat, and it took me aback and I figured, well, you know, here is one bigot so I'll just keep asking around, and it became very clear very quickly that there was no different story.

So we went to see a lawyer, and I still thought it was a matter of getting a lawyer to write a letter for me. Just write a letter, have the right information. I'm clearly in the same category with these some other men. The lawyer said to me this isn't an administrative error. This is the law, and it's going to have to be rectified with a lawsuit. And if you're willing we'll take you on.

FEIGEN: Ruth and I heard about it, and immediately let the lawyer for Sharon Frontiero know we were interested. It was very important to us to have a part in that case.

FRONTIERO: A nice girls didn't file lawsuits, particularly after they had been let into the surface at all. You know, what more did I want? Well, I just wanted to be treated like everybody else did. But there was a sense, and there is still a sense that nice girls don't speak up, nice girls don't make demands. Well, too bad.

It went to the District Court in Alabama. We lost, and the next court to go to was the Supreme Court.

FEIGEN: Ruth and I set to work to write the brief. I would write the section, and Ruth would take it and it would come back in a wonderfully brilliant fashion. Every word, it was carefully -- I mean, Ruth went over every single word.

What we wanted was a review of cases that the court would say sex discrimination doesn't work, and it would be a broad command basically to legislatures to get rid of statutes that discriminate on the basis of gender.

But she also added to make the point much more poignant the history of women and the way we were treated throughout America and its beginnings.

She captured four of the male members of the court what it was like to be a second class citizen.

WILLIAMS: Frontiero went to the court. Ruth Ginsburg, for the first time, made an oral argument. She split her time with the lawyer, the man who had begun the case in Alabama.

R. GINSBURG: It was an afternoon argument, so I was first up in the afternoon and I've been there have lunch a day.

FEIGEN: She seemed nervous. Her eyes were wide with sort of anticipation. It's very intense and austere and important and very male, and it's the whole thing feels like. I was -- I was really kind of scared.

We sat down at the council table and I had all this huge case books for me to help her recite (ph). And the court began with the oh, yay, oh, yay, and here we are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yay, oh, yay, oh, yay, all persons having business before the Supreme Court of the United States to admonish to draw an ear (ph) and give their attention, for the court is now setting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mrs. Ginsburg?

R. GINSBURG: I was terribly, terribly nervous, but then I looked up at the justices and I thought I have a captive audience.

[22:35:04]

I knew that I was speaking to men who didn't think there was any such thing as gender-based discrimination, and my job was to tell them it real exists.

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the court, women today face discrimination in employment as pervasive and more subtle than discrimination encountered by minority groups.

Sex classifications imply a judgment of inferiority. The sex criterion stigmatizes when it is used to protect women from competing for higher paying jobs, promotions. It assumes that all women are preoccupied with home and children. These distinctions have a common effect. They help keep women in her place, a place inferior to that occupied by men in our society.

There was not a single question. I just went on speaking, and I, at the time, wondered are they just indulging me and not listening or am I telling them something they haven't heard before and are they paying attention? FEIGEN: The justices were just glued to her. I don't think that they were expecting to have to deal with something as powerful as a sheer force of her argument that was just all encompassing. And they were there to talk about a little statue in the government code. I mean, it was just -- we seized the moment to change American society.

R. GINSBURG: And asking the court to declare sex a suspect criterion, we urge our position forcibly stated in stated in 1837 by Sarah Grimpky, noted abolitionist and advocate of equal rights for men and women. She said I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.

FRONTIERO: We're told about the decision when a reporter called us up and said it went in your favor today. How do you feel? I said I feel fine, thank you very much.

FEIGEN: We were both happy that we won. I mean, let's be clear about it, we won the case, but we lost the standard of review that we wanted by one vote.

WILLIAMS: She tried to make the case that sex discrimination should be treated like race discrimination. Four justices signed on to that idea. The problem was she needs five.

R. GINSBURG: And I said, it's too soon. My expectation to be candid was that I would repeat that kind of argument maybe half a dozen times. I didn't expect it to happen in one fell-swoop. I think, generally, in our society real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:40:00]

SPERA: She is very disciplined, but she has passions that she really enjoys. She loves the opera. She goes to opera goes to multiple opera festivals, and the whole family will go with her. I think it is a place of tranquility that is outside of the demands of her job.

R. GINSBURG: When I am at an opera, I get totally carried away. I don't think about the case that's coming up next week or the brief that I'm in the middle of. I am overwhelmed by the beauty of the music, the drama and the sound of the human voice. It's like an electric current going through me.

Justice and mercy there are, in opera, very random emotions.

A young man had a tragic experience. His wife had an entirely healthy pregnancy and he was told that he had a healthy baby boy, but his wife had died.

STEPHEN WIESENFELD, PLAINTIFF: The problem was an amniotic embolism and at that particular point nobody had survived that. They can keep her alive for about four hours.

[22:45:00] But by 3:30 in the afternoon, the code blue came along and she died.

Jason was a very easy child. My attitude towards raising a child is that a child is not there for me. I'm there for him, and that's what my job was.

R. GINSBURG: He determined that he was going to be a care-giving parent to that child. He went to the local social security office and asked about the benefits that he thought a sole surviving parent could get. And he was told that benefit is called a mother's benefit and he didn't qualify. So he wrote a letter to the editor of his local newspaper, and he said, I've heard a lot about women's lib. Let me tell you my story.

WIESENFELD: To the editor, it has been my misfortune to discover that a male cannot collect social security benefits as a woman can. Had I been paying into the social security system and when I died, she would have been able to receive a benefit. But male homemakers cannot. I wonder if Gloria Steinem knows about this.

STEINEM: Ruth took a case in which a man was discriminated against in order to show the depth and the importance of sex discrimination, a very intelligent thing to do.

WIESENFELD: We appeared in the United States Supreme Court in 1975. When we got to the courtroom, she sat me down at the table with her. She just wanted a male presence to be at that table so the justices would have something to identify with. That was just part of her strategy.

JUDGE HARRY EDWARDS, U.S. COURT OF APPEALS D.C. COURT: She is trying to convince members of the Supreme Court who were mostly white male, privileged class at that time.

R. GINSBURG: Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the court. For the eight months immediately following his wife's death, Stephen Wiesenfeld, did not engage in substantial gainful employment. Instead, he devoted himself to the care of Jason Paul.

EDWARDS: She knew exactly what she was doing and it was a very shrewd strategy.

R. GINSBURG: That case resulted in a unanimous judgment in Stephen Wiesenfeld's favor. His case was the perfect example of how gender- based discrimination hurts everyone.

KATHLEEN PERATIS, ACLU WOMEN'S RIGHTS PROJECT: Ruth's conception of the strategy led to a whole string of litigation for the next decade.

NETER: She wanted to build the idea of women's equality step by step to use each case to move things forward.

MILLER: It was like knitting a sweater.

R. GINSBURG: The point is that the discriminatory line almost inevitably hurts women. Female citizens of Louisiana are denied equal protection by the total absence of their peers from the jury --

JUSTICE POTTER STEWART, FORMER ASSOCIATE JUSTICE: I thought the theory was that there was very little difference between men and women, and so why wouldn't a men jury be their peer.

R. GINSBURG: Well, I am not aware of that new theory.

EDWARDS: They didn't get it. They didn't understand the issues that women were facing or they didn't see them as issues. Because women had -- in their minds, women had a place and it wasn't where Ruth Ginsburg was suggesting where it ought to be.

R. GINSBURG: Men and woman are persons of equal dignity and they should count equally before the law.

JUSTICE WILLIAMS REHNQUIST, FORMER ASSOCIATE JUSTICE: You won't settle for putting Susan B. Anthony on the new dollar?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When they would say things like this, how would you respond?

R. GINSBURG: Well, never in anger. As my mother told me, that would have been self-defeating, always as an opportunity to teach. I didn't see myself as kind of a kindergarten teacher in those days because the judges didn't think sex discrimination existed.

Well, one of the things I've tried to plant in their minds was, think about how you would like the world to be for your daughters and granddaughters.

The gender line helps to keep women not on a pedestal, but in a cage.

PERATIS: One of the things that I'm struck by as I look back on it is how unprepared the defendants were to fight back.

[22:50:02]

We won because the strategy was brilliant. We won because we were smart and prepared and we fought hard.

EDWARDS: You couldn't miss what Ruth was doing during the '70s.

MILLER: She was creating a legal landscape.

TOTENBERG: She was doing something that was incredibly important to American women, whether they knew it or not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just the thought that I might catch a glimpse of her is overwhelming. I have a mug of her in my room. It says, her story in the making.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have her sticker on my computer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I've just ordered a tons of merch. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Notorious RBG, to get my book get signed.

SHANA KNIZHNIK, AUTHOR, NOTORIOUS RBG: I think it's easy to take for granted the position that young women can have in today's society and that's a lot thanks to Justice Ginsburg's work.

IRIN CARMON, AUTHOR, NOTORIOUS RBG: Who is more disdained or told to go away than an older woman, but here is an older woman who people really want to hear everything that she has to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been given questions by the students about what it's like to be Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Do you have a smart phone?

R. GINSBURG: Yes, I do, the answer is yes, I had, in fact, two, until they took the blackberry away from me saying, nobody uses that anymore. And what do I use it for? Not for selfies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have said in public many times that the ideal number of women for the Supreme Court of the United States is nine.

R. GINSBURG: Yes. Why not? Nine men were a satisfactory number until 1981. But the change in the federal judiciary as a whole has been enormous. It wasn't until Jimmy Carter became president. He looked around at the federal judiciary and he said, they all look like me. But that's not how the great United States looks.

EDWARDS: When President Carter was elected, he said, there are almost no women and there are almost no African-Americans on the federal bench. And I am determined to change that. Justice Ginsburg and I were two of the people who benefited from that promise.

Ruth was nominated in 1980. And we became colleagues on the U.S. Court Of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Judge Ginsburg, did you always want to be a judge?

R. GINSBURG: The law is something that I think I deal with well. I don't have the kind of talent that could make one say, a great opera singer.

I wanted to be active in the law. The law is a consuming love for me.

EDWARDS: When she first started on the bench, after we hear cases, we go into a conference room and the three judges confer. And we think about how we should decide the cases.

Ruth was sufficiently confident in herself in the early days. She would say, this is a very straightforward case. I have a prepared judgment for us. And this was before we conferred on the case.

And, initially, we were all taken aback, like, no, wait, wait, Ruth, you can't do that. She was always right. The judgments that she had prepared were right, but we said, no, we have to go through the motions of talking first before you give us the result. R. GINSBURG: When I was appointed to the D.C. Circuit, so often, people would come up to me and say, it must be hard for you commuting back and forth to New York. Because they couldn't imagine that a man would leave his work to follow his wife.

MILLER: He had been extraordinarily successful as a practicing lawyer in New York. There were people who would say he was the best tax lawyer in the City in New York, and believe me, that is saying something.

TOTENBERG: He was okay playing second fiddle. In fact, he made a joke of it always. He would say, I moved to Washington because my wife got a good job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much advice do you give each other?

[22:55:00]

ATTY. MARTY GINSBURG, HUSBAND OF RUTH BADER GINSBURG: Well, I --

EDWARDS: Marty was the funny one in the family and she loved it. And you could see the twinkle in her eye when he would do his funny little quips and jokes.

M. GINSBURG: As a general rule, my wife does not give me any advice about cooking and I do not give her any advice about the law. This seems to work quite well on both sides.

JAMES GINSBURG: My father was a very outgoing, very fun person and I think he helped temper some of mom's seriousness at times, which I think was to everybody's benefit.

JANE GINSBURG: We used to keep a book called Mommy Laughed, which had parsimonious entries.

R. GINSBURG: You are giving me constant advices. Starts calling about 7:00. It's time to come home for dinner. And at 7:30, and somewhere between 7:30 and 9:00, we generally make it. And the other thing is, time for you to go to sleep. Those are the daily -- that's the daily advice that I get.

M. GINSBURG: Well, it's not that bad advice. You have to eat one meal a day and you should go to sleep.

EDWARDS: He allowed Ruth to be who she was, that is, a relatively reserved, serious person, who focused on her law work and loved doing that. And the relationship was just magnificent to watch.

R. GINSBURG: And when Marty was starting out in law practice and eager to make partner, I was responsible for the lion's share of taking care of the home. But when the women's movement came alive and Marty appreciated the importance of the work I was doing, then I became the person whose career came first.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was she like as a woman?

JANE GINSBURG: Exigent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you mean by that?

JANE GINSBURG: Do your homework. Clean your room. Don't disappoint us.

JAMES GINSBURG: Helping a lot with schoolwork, commenting, pulling out the red pen.

M. GINSBURG: Our dear daughter, Jane, all smile, volunteered to the press that she had grown up in a home in which responsibility was equally divided. Her father did the cooking, she explained, and her mother did the thinking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So is she really such a horrible cook?

JANE GINSBURG: Yes.

JAMES GINSBURG: Oh, yes. To this day, I still can't eat sword swordfish after what she did to it.

JANE GINSBURG: It wasn't until I was 14 that I encountered a live vegetable.

M. GINSBURG: Ruth is no longer permitted in the kitchen, this by the demand of our children, who have taste.

R. GINSBURG: This is a book that Tata, he collected letters about me for my 50th birthday.

SPERA: Tata organized all of this?

R. GINSBURG: It was his idea.

SPERA: Tata, her husband, my grandfather, he was especially do a thing (ph), so they almost sometimes had bad cop good cop relationship when it came to the grandkids. Tata was more often the good cop, I would say, mostly because Bubby was often buried in her work. So if he really wanted something, we felt like we can nag Tata more often for it.

Dear Ruth, I have little doubt, you are proud, rightly so, of all you have achieved as a judge and as a spouse and parent as well, but I conceive no way you can take greater pride than I do, love, Tata.

R. GINSBURG: Nice.

SPERA: Very nice. Do you read these often?

R. GINSBURG: No, I never read them.

SPERA: Well, you should. They're very nice if you ever need a boost of self-confidence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So much of the shape of America is the work of the U.S. Supreme Court, and so the makeup of that court is one of the enduring legacies of a president who has an opportunity to appoint justices. And tonight, this new president has his first chance to make it a Clinton court.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This president has a very clear idea of what he wants in this justice.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I really did want to put Governor Cuomo on the court, but he didn't want to do it, so I started looking around.

TOTENBERG: He kept moving from his favorite person of the week to the next favorite person of the week. And Judge Ginsburg was sort of old to be a nominee. She was in her early 60s. Most people, I think, thought she was out of the running for that reason. And Marty was just not going to accept that.

MILLER: We're talking about Ruth and we must remember how shy she was. I can't think of anyone less likely to toot her own horn than Ruth.

[23:00:02]

So Marty had to play the New York philharmonic.