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The War on Women in the Courts

In 2007, five men on the Supreme Court told Lilly Ledbetter that she was out of luck. Ledbetter, after two decades working as the only female supervisor at a Goodyear tire plant in Alabama, had sued her employer for wage discrimination–she had discovered that for all those years she had been paid less than male colleagues doing the same job. But the Supreme Court told her that the way they did the math it was too late for her to sue.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, at that time the only woman on the Supreme Court, took the unusual step of reading her dissenting opinion from the bench, accusing the five-Justice majority of not understanding the reality of Ledbetter’s situation. She declared, “In our view, the court does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination.”

The Ledbetter case was a stark example of what it means to have women judges and justices on the bench. Many great pro-equality decisions have been made by male judges, and women judges are by no means guaranteed to rule in favor of female litigants. But having women on the courts means that women’s voices are heard in the halls of justice.

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