Archive for September 20th, 2021

September 20, 2021

Barrett Publishes Article on RBG and NY Court of Appeals 

Professor John Q. Barrett has published a short article, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Litigating Against Gender Discrimination…and Remembering One Such New York Case,” in the Historical Society of the New York Courts’ publication Judicial Notice.

The article is about Ginsburg as a New Yorker; her 1970s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Women’s Rights Project litigation for women’s and men’s equal rights, including in the U.S. Supreme Court; and her involvement in Sontag v. Bronstein, a little-remembered case that the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU)—the ACLU’s local affiliate—won in the New York Court of Appeals in 1973. Sontag concerned a dumbbell-lifting test that New York City’s Civil Service Commission imposed as a job qualification on Ms. Sontag, a school audio-visual aide; because she failed this weight-lifting test, the City moved to dismiss her. The New York court decided that this was illegal gender-based discrimination.

In Sontag, Ginsburg, representing the ACLU, was on the NYCLU attorneys’ brief. If the New York court had decided against Sontag, Ginsburg might have taken the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it might have produced a landmark decision concerning the unconstitutionality of gratuitous sexism.

Justice Ginsburg always remembered the Sontag case and the excellence of the brief. She kept it nearby during her judicial career.  

Click here for an abstract of Professor Barrett’s essay and to download it.

John Q. Barrett
Professor of Law

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