Episode 2: Ruth Bader Ginsburg only lost one case as an oral advocate in the Supreme Court: Kahn v. Shevin. The case involved a challenge to a Florida law according a special tax exemption to female widows, but not male widowers. Every widow got the tax exemption, regardless of her income–even the wealthy widowed woman of Palm Beach. Ginsburg tried to show the Court how the law was built upon and perpetuated an assumption of women’s economic dependency upon men.
The Court didn’t buy it. In fact, one of the four justices to vote for strict scrutiny for laws discriminating on the basis of sex in Frontiero (see Ep. 1)–Justice William O. Douglas–defects. He authors the opinion in the only case that Ginsburg ever lost. Why? His mother.
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