Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Published in the Republican October 2020

On September 18, the country lost a longstanding Supreme Court Justice.  Justice Ginsburg died at the age of 87 from pancreatic cancer.  She was well known for women’s’ rights.  However, she also played an important role in the rights of people with disabilities.

Justice Ginsburg was involved in the historical case of Olmstead v. L.C.  In 1995, two women with developmental disabilities filed a lawsuit against the state of Georgia for discrimination.  They claimed that their rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act were violated.

The ladies wanted the right to live independently with community support after years of being institutionalized.  The state of Georgia argued that financial constraints made providing services unfeasible.

They won the case in 1999 and Justice Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion.  She wrote “First, institutional placement of persons who can handle and benefit from community settings perpetuatesunwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life.  Second, confinement in an institution severely diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement and cultural enrichment.”

The CEO of the American Network of Community Options and Resources, Barbara Merrill, said, “Justice Ginsburg cemented the right of people to live within the community, rather than in institutions.  Her work gave power to the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and she will be forever remembered as a champion of the rights of millions of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

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