On Monday, Feb. 12, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sat down in front of a live audience at the National Constitution Center with its president and CEO Jeffrey Rosen for a conversation. The interview touched on a wide array of topics including the #MeToo movement, Supreme Court rulings she’d like to see overruled, women's rights, and due process on college campuses.
When discussing the #MeToo movement, Rosen asked, “What about due process for the accused?” — a question we at FIRE were happy to hear. Justice Ginsburg responded thoughtfully:
Well, that must not be ignored and it goes beyond sexual harassment. The person who is accused has a right to defend herself or himself, and we certainly should not lose sight of that. Recognizing that these are complaints that should be heard. There’s been criticism of some college codes of conduct for not giving the accused person a fair opportunity to be heard, and that’s one of the basic tenets of our system, as you know, everyone deserves a fair hearing.
Rosen, aptly picking up on Justice Ginsburg’s concern regarding how colleges handle due process, began the following exchange:
Rosen: Are some of those criticisms of the college codes valid?
Ginsburg: Do I think they are? Yes.
Rosen: I think people are hungry for your thoughts about how to balance the values of due process against the need for increased gender equality.
Ginsburg: It’s not one or the other. It’s both. We have a system of justice where people who are accused get due process, so it’s just applying to this field what we have applied generally.
These comments from Justice Ginsburg reflect the sentiment towards justice on college campuses that FIRE has and will continue to express. At no point should due process for the accused and justice for survivors be considered mutually exclusive. Due process, gender equality, and justice are intrinsically bound and when one of those values is set aside, the others suffer.
Justice Ginsburg wrapped up the conversation with some wise words for young people, which we should all take to heart:
Young people should appreciate the values on which our nation is based and how precious they are, and if they don’t become part of the crowd that seeks to uphold them, you know it was something [Judge] Learned Hand said—if the spirit of liberty dies in the hearts of the people, there is no court capable of restoring it. But I can see the spirit of my grandchildren and their friends, and I have faith in this generation just coming into adulthood.
Those interested in hearing the whole conversation can listen here.