Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg Visits Mililani

Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg Visits Mililani


By Jannah Kalai
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United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg visited MHS on Feb. 11 as part of the “Courts in the Community program,” founded by the Hawaii State Supreme Court. Mililani hosted the private event that welcomed students from Assets, Baldwin, Farrington, Hanalani, Iolani, Kamehameha, McKinley, Mililani, Radford and Waipahu High Schools. Justice Ginsburg discussed her experience in the justice system while also opening up to questions from students.

“She exudes wisdom, wisdom from experience she’s garnered throughout her life. But also wisdom in what she speaks about, what she experiences on the court; how she decided particular cases,” stated AP Government and Politics teacher, and organizer of the event Jason Duncan.

Justice Ginsburg was in Hawaii as part of the U.S. Supreme Court Jurist-in-Residence program at the University of Hawaii (UH) at Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law. The program was established in 1987 and regularly brings justices to the Law School. This was the third visit for Justice Ginsburg, as she previously came in 1998 and 2004. “During these programs the justices typically teach classes, meet with judges and members of the Hawaii Bar and discuss current judicial issues during their time at the Law School,” stated a media advisory from the UH William S. Richardson School of Law describing the program.

For the many students in attendance who wish to study or who have intended careers in politics, she served as more than an inspiration. “It’s a feeling I’ve never had before. I think that it was definitely interesting to hear her perspective,” explained Senior Sarah Igarashi. “She talked a great deal about her experience. And the struggle of becoming a lawyer as a woman in her time; the challenges that she faced in regards to being who she was in a male dominated career,” stated Duncan. “She was, for many students, very interesting to listen to with her perspective on her personal struggle to become such a prominent position today in power.”

Justice Ginsburg openly talked about her relationship with the late Justice Antonin Scalia. “She talked about her close friendship with Justice Scalia and she cracked a few funny jokes about how, granted they have very different judicial philosophies one being activism versus restraint, they had a strong friendship and strong relationship,” expressed Duncan. “For many audience members it was great to see, in this time of political polarization, two different types of justices and judicial philosophies having so many commonalities.”

Her visit was a once in a lifetime opportunity, a significance not ignored by those in attendance. “I was just really excited; she’s such a big inspiration for someone like me, for women, for people who want to go into political science,” stated Igarashi. “Once you get past the surface layer emotions of pure inspiration and amazement, it was very interesting to hear what she had to say about overcoming prejudices.”

Her discussion with students, although specific, did not cater to a political group or party.“For many students, it was interesting to listen to her judicial philosophy. Even those who may not have necessarily agreed with her rulings, truly respected the level of civility she expressed,” Duncan further explained. “It was just fascinating to me that we would have this opportunity because, as I expressed to my students, it’s very difficult to get an audience with a Supreme Court Justice. It’s almost like getting an audience with a celebrity. It was a very unique opportunity.”

Although media was in attendance, questions were only allowed to be fielded by high school students. The “Community in the Courts” program, was what allowed students to meet justices. “This is the Hawaii Supreme Court’s educational outreach program that gives high school students unique, hands-on experience in how the Hawaii judicial system works,” described the UH advisory.

Her decision to focus on creating a conversation with students was admired by many. “She really wants to understand what youth have to say. She wants to know what their questions are, and she wants them to understand the judicial system,” stated Duncan. “She sees the vital importance of kids being educated, informed, knowledgeable citizens. You could see that shine through her talk, she made it a focus of the event.”

The U.S. Supreme Court Jurist-in-Residence program celebrates 30 years since its inception with Justice Ginsburg’s visit. With visits every two years under the program, underclassmen may look forward to visits from other justices in the future.