'She was my idol': Bay Area legal community shares memories of Supreme Court icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

"She was a role model to all of us. She was a leading attorney at a time when there weren't that many women attorneys," said California Court of Appeal Justice Marla Miller.

ByKate Larsen and Cornell Barnard KGO logo
Sunday, September 20, 2020
Former law clerk for RBG shares memories of Supreme Court icon
The passing of Justice Ginsburg has sparked strong emotions in the Bay Area, from both liberals and conservatives who knew and respected her. A UC Berkeley law professor shares her memories of clerking for the Supreme Court icon.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has sparked strong emotions in the Bay Area, from both liberals and conservatives who knew and respected her.

After learning of her death, people in the Bay Area who knew or met Justice Ginsburg spoke enthusiastically about her incredible accomplishments.

But it was the personal stories about how generous Ginsburg was with her time, that she was a great listener, worth leaning into hear her every word and a fun dinner date that stood out and brought so much humanity to a woman who provided that for so many Americans.

WATCH: Bay Area legal community reflects on Justice Ginsburg's life, legacy

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made a big impression within the legal community in the Bay Area and beyond, many saying she was a pioneer and a role model.

"I'm devastated for our country, we have lost a national treasure," said Amanda Tyler who shared her memories of clerking for Ginsberg.

Tyler is a UC Berkeley law professor now reflecting on the life of legal luminary and American Icon, Justice Ginsburg.

"She was my idol, she was incredibly kind," said Tyler.

Only last year, professor Tyler hosted a talk on the Cal campus with Justice Ginsburg, years earlier -- she had the honor of being Ginsburg's law clerk at the Supreme Court.

VIDEO: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg enthralls audience at UC Berkeley, says she's doing well after recent cancer fight

When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg walked onto the stage of Zellerbach Hall at UC Berkeley, the audience leapt to their feet and clapped so hard she had to settle them down.

"It was incredibly inspiring watching her at work and to work with her on opinions and matters of the court and to learn from her," said Tyler.

There are tributes hailing Ginsburg's work as a champion of equality on the high court.

"She was a feminist icon," said Peninsula Representative Jackie Speier.

Speier says one of her most treasured possessions is a hand written thank you note from Ginsburg.

"We sent her a necklace to wear as a collar, she sent me a note back, I have it framed in my office," said Speier.

RELATED: Hundreds attend San Francisco vigil to honor late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, hundreds held a vigil to mourn and honor the life of feminist icon, and the first Jewish Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

"You did have that feeling that she was always going to bounce back, so it's a very sad day," said San Francisco resident, Justice Marla Miller.

Justice Miller serves on the California Court of Appeal and on California's Supreme Court Ethics Committee.

Justice Ginsburg made a big impression on Miller from the beginning.

"When she was first appointed to the D.C. circuit, back in I think 1979, she may not have been a household name, but to those of us who were law students at the time it was a hugely significant appointment," Miller said.

Miller has met Ginsburg and said "she was riveting," and "she listened really carefully."

"She was a role model to all of us," Miller said. "She was a leading attorney at a time when there weren't that many women attorneys. She was also a real pioneer in bringing the court cases that established the whole panoply of rights that women have, gender equality."

WATCH: Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 'RBG' was a frequent visitor and favorite in the Bay Area in recent years

REST IN PEACE: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg visited the Bay Area multiple times in her final years, leaving lasting impressions for all of those who were lucky enough to see her speak.

UC Hastings Professor David Levine spent a week with Ginsburg in Italy teaching law students.

"The moment I met her, she said 'call me Ruth,'" he said. "She was just lovely."

But one night in Tuscany, they drove to dinner.

"The problem was she didn't like seat belts," Levine said. "So I'm driving on these narrow two lane Italian roads that I'm not familiar with and thinking the fate of the country is in my hands."

They of course, survived the drive and Ginsburg went on to affect nation-shaping decisions on the Supreme Court.

"In terms of moving civil rights in the 20th century, it's Thurgood Marshall for African Americans. It's Ruth Ginsburg for women," said Levine.

Levine also pointed out how influential Justice Ginsburg was because she was so good at reaching out to the other justices in order to find common ground and that fifth vote.

Ginburg's death, just weeks before the presidential election, now triggers an epic political battle, the ideological balance of the court now hangs in the balance.

LOOKBACK: 2017: Ruth Bader Ginsburg uses levity in talk at Stanford

Bay Area attorney and co-chair of the Republican National Lawyers Association Harmeet Dhillon says naming Ginsburg's replacement should go forward.

"Now the president is going to nominate her successor and I support him in that regard as well," said Dhillon.

The president could nominate someone in the coming days, Senate Republicans are vowing confirmation but Democrats are saying not so fast.