Justice Ginsburg’s Footnotes

“Justice Ginsburg’s Footnotes”

New England Law Review, Vol. 43, No. 4, 2009
Boston Univ. School of Law Working Paper No. 09-12

JAY WEXLER, Boston University – School of Law

In this short article written for the New England School of Law’s March Symposium on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I report on what happened when I embarked on a project of trying to read every single footnote Justice Ginsburg has ever written as a justice on the Supreme Court. As the article relates, this project was impossible to complete because Justice Ginsburg, it turns out, has written a lot, lot, lot of footnotes. Instead, I ended up reading all of Justice Ginsburg’s footnotes from three of her terms. In the article, I develop a nine-part taxonomy of Supreme Court footnotes and categorize Justice Ginsburg’s notes according to this taxonomy. The study reveals that, among other things, Justice Ginsburg does not use her footnotes, as some humor writers do, to make jokes. Also, she does not follow in the footsteps of the late, great David Foster Wallace and use footnotes to mirror the fractured nature of reality in her work. Instead, Justice Ginsburg uses footnotes to, for example, provide background information regarding cases under review, point out important aspects of case history, and respond to the arguments of other justices.

Source: LSN Law & Rhetoric Vol. 2 No. 22,  03/20/2009

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