February 2011

 TER Presents Cardozo Award to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at 90th Convention  

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg received the Benjamin Nathan Cardozo Award from David H. Marion, National Chancellor of the Tau Epsilon Rho Law Society and former Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association.  She was presented a specially bound rare collection of Justice Cardozo’s writings.

Our 90th Annual Convention in Naples, Florida, was one of the most exciting and best attended events in TER history.  As National Chancellor, it was my great honor to present the Cardozo award to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at our Opening Dinner on December 27, 2010.  It was a unique occasion for many reasons.

In the first place, we were celebrating our 90th birthday.  The Tau Epsilon Rho Law Society was founded in 1920 to promote truth, equity, righteousness and non-discrimination in the legal profession.

The Benjamin Nathan Cardozo Memorial Award was named for the second Jewish lawyer ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The recipient was the second woman ever appointed to the Court, and the first Jewish woman on the Court.  Justice Ginsburg was recognized not only for her brilliant service on the Supreme Court and on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, but for her earlier work – as a founder and director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union – in litigating a series of cases solidifying a constitutional principle against gender-based discrimination.

The Cardozo Award is not presented annually.  Nor, like so many other awards, is its purpose to raise funds for the sponsoring – or any other – organization.  It is solely to recognize, respect and honor a truly distinguished American citizen.  Past recipients have included President Harry S. Truman; five Supreme Court Justices from Robert H. Jackson in 1941 to Lewis F. Powell in 1983; and such legal luminaries as Leonard Hand, Horace Stern, Roscoe Pound, John Biggs, Jr. and Abner J. Mikva.

Rather than give a typical acceptance speech, Justice Ginsburg instead chose to engage in a “conversation” with the audience of about 250 people, facilitated by questions from distinguished constitutional law Professor Robert Allen Sedler of Wayne State University Law School, followed by questions from the audience.  During that exchange and dialogue, Justice Ginsburg gave revealing and candid insights into the ideological divisions on the Court; the kinds of things the Justices do to foster collegiality and mutual respect; the background, impacts and possible criticisms of such famous decisions as Roe v Wade and Bush v Gore; and the varying articulated standards of review in constitutional challenges.  She spoke movingly of her personal experience of graduating in 1959 at the top of her class from a leading law school and finding that she and other women like her could not obtain employment in any law firm; and what it was like to be a Jewish justice on the Court.

In addition to a number of law student members, we welcomed Hugh Schwartzberg, Board Chairman of the TER Schwartzberg Educational Scholarship Foundation which funds the educational activities of the Society.  We also had a large delegation from the Jewish Federation of Collier County and its Cardozo Society, some of whom also participated in our CLE program.  We hope this will be the start of a continuing association with those groups for the mutual benefit of our respective members.

I received numerous comments from those who attended the conversation with Justice Ginsburg generally expressing the views that the event was tremendously exciting and unforgettable, and thankfulness that they had been there to experience it.

If that were not enough, the proverbial icing on the cake was provided on the following morning, at a continuing legal education course on “The Supreme Court as an Institution.”  The Convention registrants were surprised and delighted to discover that Justice Ginsburg had volunteered to join Professor Sedler at the podium and provide unique insights and brilliant analysis of the historical and contemporary development of constitutional principles and the inner workings of the Supreme Court.  How often, if ever, has a sitting Supreme Court Justice given a CLE discussing the history and procedures of the Court, her colleagues on the Court and decisions before and during her tenure on the Court!  In short, it was thrilling to be there.

The Naples Grande Beach Resort, a Waldorf Astoria hotel, was an excellent venue for the Convention, and we hope to repeat the experience next year.  For those of you who attended, as well as those who missed it, you should mark your calendar so as not to miss the 91st Convention.  I won’t guarantee it will equal the 90th, but I do guarantee you’ll be glad you came.