The 25th Anniversary of the VMI Case: Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg and United States v. Virginia (1996)

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Photo Credit: Steve Petteway, Collection of the U.S. Supreme Court

Wednesday, March 3, 2021 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time Joint Program between American College of Trial Lawyers and the Society

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s opinion in the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) case is perhaps the most important majority opinion she penned in her 27 years on the Supreme Court. Issued during her third term, the decision held that VMl’s male-only admissions policy violated the equal protection clause. It is heralded as a landmark decision because it went further than any other to establish true sex equality as a fundamental constitutional norm. It was also dear to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s heart as the culmination of her earlier efforts as a litigator to persuade the Supreme Court to raise the standard of review applied to laws and policies that discriminated on the basis of sex.

To honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s memory and to mark the 25th anniversary of the VMI case, we have asked those who participated in the case to share first-hand accounts of the behind­ the-scenes strategies that culminated in the historic decision.

We are thus pleased to announce that the ACTL Spring meeting on March 3 will feature Paul Bender, who argued the government’s case as Deputy Solicitor General, Theodore B. Olson, the oral advocate who represented Virginia and Virginia Military Institute, and Lisa Beattie Frelinghuysen who was a law clerk in Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Chambers and helped her prepare the majority opinion. Law Professor Deborah Merritt will provide an introductory overview of the importance of the decision, both in terms of constitutional law and in terms of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s career. Clare Cushman of the Supreme Court Historical Society will moderate the discussion.

While there is no charge for this event, SCHS Members must register. If you are a member of the ACTL, please register through their website. If you are a Supreme Court Historical Society member and not a member of the ACTL, please email your request for registration to: [email protected]. Details and event log-in information will be sent to you during the week prior to the event.