Among the presidential election drawing closer, mass mobilization around combating the enduring harms of racial injustice, and the difficulties of maintaining data privacy in a time where online presence is essentially a mandate, we are law students at a time when progressive lawyering is more important than ever.
The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS) is a national organization that aims to restore the fundamental principles of respect for human dignity, protection of individual rights and liberties, genuine equality, and access to justice to their traditionally central place in American law. ACS believes that the Constitution is a dynamic document to be interpreted within the contexts of contemporary life and society. Recognizing that the Constitution was written in a time when so few were represented, ACS promotes progressive lawyering that serves to uphold our constitutionally-protected individual rights and liberties, in ways that are equitable for all, and not merely for some. With over 200 law student and lawyer chapters across the country, ACS is a non-partisan educational organization that does not lobby, litigate, or take positions on specific issues, but does encourage its members to express their views and make their voices heard.
Our programming composes of a wide variety of events focused on progressive lawyering. Read our weekly update emails for updates, and keep your eyes out for events on:
- Diversifying the judicial pipeline and increased transparency within access to legal academia
- Anti-racism and anti-racist lawyering
- Qualified immunity and race
- Data privacy and the consequences of racist artificial intelligence/facial recognition technology
- Progressive litigation before conservative judges
- Meetings with judges who had "unconventional" pathways to the bench
- Environmental justice and racial injustice
- The recent gutting of reproductive rights jurisprudence
We hope you’ll join ACS as we strive to return the Constitution to its position as the protector of individual rights and liberties. You can join our list serve by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Latest from ACS at NYU Law
On the Loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
No combination of words could ever convey the loss of the titan who was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
One of nine women in her class at Harvard Law School. Tied for first in her graduating class at Columbia Law School. The first female tenured professor at Columbia Law School. The second female Justice—and the first female Jewish Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. However, Justice Ginsburg’s legacy went beyond her accolades and the bounds of the legal profession, with mainstream media and pop culture rightly recognizing how the Justice’s progressive lawyering contributed immeasurably to life as we know it, today.
Just as important are the intimate qualities that made her unique. Justice Ginsburg dearly loved the opera. Known for her prolonged silences—the sound of her brilliant mind at work—she once chased the love of her life, Marty, around her chambers with a pair of scissors, laughing all the while. She was known to call the children of her clerks, “grandclerks,” and to gleefully gift t-shirts and mugs that displayed her likeness on them. She slipped handwritten notes to Justices Kagan and Sotomayor for their first opinions on the Court, remembering how a similar gesture from Justice O’Connor had made her feel.
Before she was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she was Joan Ruth Bader. Nicknamed “Kiki,” she grew up in Brooklyn, devouring books in the public library above the Chinese restaurant—and for the rest of her life, she would associate the aroma of Chinese food with the pleasures of reading. She wrote for her high school newspaper, was a twirler, and served as a camp rabbi at her Jewish summer program. She lost her beloved mother the day before her high school graduation.
Justice Ginsburg’s litany of achievements obscures the fact that adversity walked alongside her at every step. Yet, with her steady demeanor and dry humor, she thwarted it at every turn. Invited to a law student dinner by then-Dean Erwin Griswold, only to be asked to justify her theft of a seat from a male applicant, she responded by finishing at the top of her class—all while raising her daughter, Jane, and caring for Marty through his cancer treatments.
Even so, Justice Ginsburg received no job offer from any New York law firm upon graduation.
As we all know, none of these closed doors deterred R.B.G.—a trailblazer, through and through. She clerked for Judge Edmund L. Palmieri of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. She became a professor of civil procedure at Rutgers Law School, engaging in collective action with her female colleagues for equal pay to that of their male counterparts. And, refusing to let her accomplishments serve as the balm on the scar of the pervasive discrimination in her journey, Justice Ginsburg embarked on the work that would forever change the conception of gender roles in our nation and jurisprudence.
Spearheading the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, Justice Ginsburg gifted our nation with the cases that would bring women into the protective constitutional force of the equal protection guarantee. Strategically building precedents that secured women many of the rights that we take for granted today, R.B.G. was not only a Justice but one of the very reasons why the women of today are free to follow their ambitions.
Her brief in Reed v. Reed would spark the evolution of heightened scrutiny, introducing the notion of bite to rational-basis review. Justice Ginsburg would then go on, in Frontiero v. Richardson, to harness existing ideals of gender norms in her litigation strategy, resulting in a plurality of the Court adopting strict scrutiny. Stating that the Constitution recognizes values higher than those of speed and efficiency, the Frontiero Court recognized that paternalism has put women in cages rather than on pedestals. Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, a case she argued before the Court, would be the first of a series of cases decided under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, in the seventies, marking a drastic shift in the understanding of the Equal Protection Clause by the highest court of our nation. Then, carrying the legacy sparked by Reed, Craig v. Boren—for which Justice Ginsburg filed an amicus brief—would invoke intermediate scrutiny to strike down a sex-based regulatory scheme, with the Court stating that the scheme in question rested on archaic notions of women being confined to the private sphere rather than being free to partake within the marketplace of ideas.
It would be a disservice to speak of Justice Ginsburg without mentioning one of her unrealized goals: the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Although she moved courts’ understanding of how the Equal Protection Clause ought to apply to sex discrimination cases, she remained convinced that the ERA was needed. At her Senate confirmation hearing upon her nomination for the Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg reaffirmed her belief stating, “I have a daughter and a granddaughter, and I would like the legislature of this country and of all the states to stand up and say we know what that history was in the 19th century and we want to make a clarion call that women and men are equal before the law just as every modern human rights document in the world does.” We want to state our shared conviction with Justice Ginsburg on the necessity of an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.
We mourn the loss of Justice Ginsburg while celebrating her strength, tenacity, and vision for our nation. Even if Ruth Bader Ginsburg had never been appointed to the federal judiciary, this country would have been made better for her tenacity, commitment, and the battles she won to further women’s equality and civil rights. But today, and every day, we remain committed to her legacy of calling out injustices for what they are. For refusing to let our individual accomplishments cloud our passions for a better tomorrow.
September 18th is the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. According to Jewish tradition, those taken from us during the High Holidays are marked as especially righteous. We can think of no one more deserving of the distinction than the Honorable Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
To the road paved before us, and to the road ahead.
With deep gratitude,
American Constitution Society at New York University School of Law
Co-Presidents: Soo Bin Ahn & Daniel Martin
Treasurer: Adam Asher
Policy & Elections Chairs: Julia Bruce & Heather Szilagyi
Litigation Advocacy Chairs: Adam Asher & Arijeet Sensharma
Events & Outreach Chair: Nicholas Tonckens
Membership & Media Chair: Michael Modak-Truran
Board Members at-Large: Rebecca Guterman & Samuel Ison
“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."
-The final statement of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg