Newhouse Free Speech Professor Reflects on Ginsburg Legacy in Communications, Rights

Sep 21, 2020

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Credit Sebastian Kim / August

The Director of the Tully Free Speech Center at Syracuse University’s Newhouse school is remembering Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a person who held a firm grasp on hi-tech issues.  Roy Gutterman met Ginsburg on two occasions and observed her during oral arguments where she had an impact on media and media law.


“I remember in one of the broadcasts and decency cases she was asking about pretty pointed questions about the impact on FCC regulations dealing with profanity. You can tell she was favoring a different approach from the FCC.”  

The professor says RBG’s career had humble origins but was destined to rise to the highest levels due to her intelligence and hard work.  He says that narrative fits appropriately, with all that’s happened this year in the US.  Unfortunately, he predicts the process to appoint her replacement will be divisive.

  “ Every political issue, every legal issue, every social issue is up in the air when there is a new supreme court justice appointed. I think the impact here is that it is not going to be a one-for-one replacement. It is not going to be a liberal for a liberal. I think it will be somebody more conservative and that will shift the balance on the court.”

Gutterman adds that Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor graduated from top law schools, though they lacked the same opportunities as their male counterparts.  Still, both became pioneers who broke through to succeed.

Newhouse Professor and Director of the Tully Free Speech Center at Newhouse.
Credit Newhouse School website

The professor said before Ginsburg became a justice she was best known for becoming one of the country’s leading advocates on equal rights and women’s rights dating back to the 70’s. He says that’s why so many are publicly mourning her and because she rose to level of an icon in the past few years, “… especially among younger people and hipsters.”