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'She made history' | DC lawyer remembers arguing in front of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Paul Smith reflects on his friendship with the late Supreme Court Justice, as well as the dozens of times he argued cases in front of her at the Supreme Court.

WASHINGTON — She moved our country closer to equality and all week long thousands of people waited outside the Supreme Court to say their final goodbyes to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

On Friday, the late Supreme Court Justice will continue breaking barriers as she becomes the first woman to receive the high honor to lie in state at the United States Capitol.

Throughout the past week, we’ve been reminded about the impressive legacy she leaves behind.

Paul Smith argued more than a dozen cases in front of her in the Supreme Court. 

"Mostly I knew her through the law, and various lawyer events in D.C. She was in an enormously impressive figure in the legal world in Washington and of course in the whole country," said Smith.

A firm believer in equal opportunities under the law, Smith got to know Justice Ginsburg personally as well as on the bench. 

"She made the legal position of women in this country dramatically different by the cases she litigated as a lawyer long before she was a Justice," said Smith.

Smith said he remembers one case in particular. "I was able to argue a very important gay rights case called Lawrence versus Texas, said Smith.

"It was a hugely important case to her because she is a person who believes in civil rights, a person who worked at the ACLU which had lost the earlier case and was really thrilled to see the Supreme Court do something really important for the LGBT community," Smith said.

After hearing about her passing, Smith said she will forever be remembered for the huge legacy she leaves behind.

"The notorious RBG thing, it’s just one of those phenomenons that will never be replicated. She just thought it was so funny and she enjoyed it so much and she had no role in creating it, it just happened," said Smith.

Credit: Paul Smith

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"She was part of history for so many years, she made history in a way that few people have," said Smith.

Ginsburg’s casket will be brought to the Capitol Friday morning for a private ceremony in Statuary Hall attended by her family and lawmakers, and with musical selections from one of Ginsburg’s favorite opera singers, mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, planned to attend.

Members of the House and Senate who are not invited to the ceremony because of space limitations imposed by the coronavirus pandemic will be able to pay their respects before a motorcade carrying Ginsburg's casket departs the Capitol early afternoon.

The honor of lying in state has been accorded fewer than three dozen times, mostly to presidents, vice presidents and members of Congress. Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon, was the last person to lie in state following his death in July. Henry Clay, the Kentucky lawmaker who served as Speaker of the House and also was a senator, was the first in 1852. Rosa Parks — a private citizen, not a government official — is the only woman who has lain in honor at the Capitol.

Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, will be buried next week in Arlington National Cemetery beside her husband, Martin, who died in 2010. 

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