We are rapidly approaching the November elections. One of the most frequently used arguments in American politics choosing a candidate is to vote for the sake of the Supreme Court. Both parties are guilty using it to fear monger. Many voters base their vote on it. Supreme Court rulings are binding on the entire country and are difficult to undo, so people place a lot of weight on the political leanings of the person selecting a new Justice. People are certainly free to vote along these lines. However, there is still a duty to be honest about the legacies of our Justices.
Many are still mourning the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Unlike most Justices, Ginsburg developed a cult of personality surrounding her, resulting in near superstardom. Her fame stems in no small part to her work fighting for gender equality, transforming her into a feminist icon.
People have frequently treated her as a liberal, even progressive paragon. However, her voting record was not in-line with that framing. Did she vote in favor of more liberal decisions than many of her peers? Sure. But in a majority conservative court in an ultra-right-wing nation, that is not some achievement.
Just this year, in the Kansas v. Glover case, she voted in favor of law enforcement. The decision, as Sotomayor explained in her dissent, effectively guts some of our 4 Amendment protections. In Kansas v. Glover, the sheriff ran the license plate of an old pick-up truck, discovering it was owned by Glover. However, the sheriff had no evidence that it was, in fact, Glover driving the vehicle at the time. Despite this, the sheriff stopped Glover. Ginsburg voted to ensure that these types of “negative inferences” qualify as “reasonable suspicion” for stopping a vehicle.
Kansas v. Glover was not the first time Justice Sotomayor was the dissenting voice as Ginsburg voted to protect law enforcement. In Utah v. Strieff, “which focused on unlawful searches and seizures, and Mullenix v. Luna, concerning a fatal police shooting, it was Justice Sonia Sotomayor alone who wrote passionately about the disproportionate impact of police abuse on minorities.”
In another case this year, she cast a vote set to devastate the environment. She voted against environmentalists, allowing a natural gas pipeline to be “built under the Appalachian Trail.” The location disproportionately impacts “rural, Native, Black, and Latinx” communities. In a case vital to vulnerable communities and to the environment as a whole, there were only two dissenting voices. Ginsburg’s voice was not among them.
Earlier in her career, she ruled directly against the sovereignty of the Oneida Nation. Back in “the early 19 century,” the Oneida Nation was defrauded out of their own land. When they eventually began buying their land back, Ginsburg “refused to allow the Oneida Nation to restore those lands.” She rejected their claims of sovereignty over their own land.
Back in the Bush v. Gore case, she did dissent. She wrote a draft of the dissent where she “alluded to possible black-voter suppression in Florida.” Justice Scalia was furious, accusing her of using “Al Sharpton tactics.” Rather than stand by her convictions, Ginsburg instead “removed the footnote” entirely.
Ginsburg’s issues extend past just her court votes, however. Back in 2016, as I am sure everyone remembers, Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem to protest systemic racism and rampant police brutality. However, what many may not remember is Ginsburg’s response. Ginsburg said she thought it was a “terrible thing to do.” She deemed the act “ridiculous,” as well as “dumb and disrespectful.”
In the end, people are free to praise her for her work fighting for gender equality. However, when it came to so many other vital issues, she was not even an ally.