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WOMEN IN THE LAW

Elena KaganRuth Bader GinsburgSherrilyn Ifill
photos Carol H. Feeley

On Saturday, March 8th, 2008 Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sherrilyn Ifill, Elena Kagan, and Gene Pratter participated in a panel discussion at the National Constitution Center about the successes, continued challenges and emerging issues faced by women in the legal profession. The conversation, moderated by ABC News correspondent Lynn Sherr, considered whether women read the Constitution differently than men, if there is such a thing as women's "justice,” the unintended consequences of women’s equality, and why women have advanced more quickly than African Americans in the field.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. She served as a law clerk to the Honorable Edmund L. Palmieri, Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, from 1959–1961. From 1961–1963, she was a research associate and then associate director of the Columbia Law School Project on International Procedure. She was a Professor of Law at Rutgers University School of Law from 1963–1972, and Columbia Law School from 1972–1980, and a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, California from 1977–1978. In 1971, she was instrumental in launching the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, and served as the ACLU’s General Counsel from 1973–1980, and on the National Board of Directors from 1974–1980. She was appointed a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1980. President Clinton nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and she took her seat on August 10, 1993. Ginsburg is on the board of the Peter Jennings Project for Journalists and the Constitution.

Sherrilyn Ifill is a professor of law at the University of Maryland School of Law, where she is a nationally-recognized advocate in civil rights, voting rights, judicial diversity and judicial decision-making.  Prior to joining the faculty in 1993, Ifill served as an assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. She is author of On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century. With Michael Pinard, Ifill co-founded the Reentry of Ex-Offenders Clinic. Ifill is a frequent guest on The Marc Steiner Show, a public affairs program on Baltimore NPR affiliate WYPR, where she talks about race and the law, and her op-ed articles often appear in the Baltimore Sun, Jurist, and the AFRO American newspapers.  She is a graduate of Vassar College and received her law degree from New York University. She sits on the board of the Peter Jennings Project.

Elena Kagan is the Solicitor General of the United States and President Barack Obama's nominee to become the 112th Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Kagan was formerly Dean of Harvard Law School and the Charles Hamilton Houston Professor of Law at Harvard University. From 1995 to 1999, Kagan served in the White House, first as Associate Counsel to the President and then as Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council. In those positions she played a key role in the executive branch's formulation, advocacy, and implementation of law and policy in areas ranging from education to crime to public health. Kagan clerked for Judge Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit from 1986 to 1987. The next year she clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U. S. Supreme Court. She then worked as a lawyer in Washington before launching her scholarly career at the University of Chicago Law School.

Gene Pratter is a judge on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Pratter has been nominated to the Third Circuit, which hears appeals from the federal district courts of Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the Virgin Islands. Prior to becoming a judge, she was a partner at Duane Morris LLP, one of the premiere law firms in Pennsylvania. Pratter has been an active member of the community in both legal and non-legal capacities. She served as the co-chair of the American Bar Association Litigation Section’s Committee on Ethics and Professionalism and is currently on the Professional Responsibility Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Lynn Sherr has been a correspondent with the ABC newsmagazine “20/20” since May 1986. Covering a wide range of stories, Sherr specializes in women's issues and social change, as well as investigative reports. Among her many contributions to “20/20” include an award-winning report on the astonishing story of a homeless girl in New York who earned a scholarship to Harvard, a pioneering report on a treatment for anorexia, and a series on the lengths women go to when altering their bodies in the name of beauty. In 2000, Sherr traveled to India to report on midnight in Bombay for the ABCNEWS Millennium Special, which received numerous awards. She has also received an Emmy, two American Women in Radio and Television Commendation awards and, a George Foster Peabody Award, among others. She co-edited Peter Jennings: A Reporter’s Life (PublicAffairs).