Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is no more. But she leaves an awesome legacy that, in many cases, changed the jurisprudential and human landscape of the United States. Her last wish, according to a newspaper report, was that the next U.S. President (and not Donald Trump) appoint her successor. For she knew that if Donald Trump were to do so, his nominee could change the balance in the U.S. Supreme Court to undo her game-changing “liberal” judgments.
While the United States and the legal community internationally mourn the death of an icon, I want to join in a personal tribute to RBG.
RBG had invited me to a small dinner – there were 3 or 4 of us – in Vienna, Austria, on the 3rd of July 2008. She was to chair an important Human Rights Panel the following day at the American Bar Association World Justice Forum Conference in Vienna. I was a lead speaker on this panel.
My speech on “The Role of Lawyers in Protecting the Rule of Law in Pakistan” at the well-attended meeting – including, from Pakistan, Mr. Chief Justice (R) Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, Mr. Justice (R) Fakharuddin Ibrahim, and Ms. Justice (R) Nasira Iqbal – generated a lot of audience and media interest. I recall that the phrase from my speech “the only thing worse than injustice is tolerating injustice” was widely quoted in the European newspapers. RBG, with whom a warm rapport had developed at her dinner the previous night, was most complimentary about the role of lawyers in the struggle for the rule of law in Pakistan and much appreciated my comments and contribution in that struggle.
The Vienna Conference led to a friendship with another sitting Judge of the U.S. Supreme Court. After my speech in Vienna, Ms. Reem Abu Hassan, from the Arab Centre for the Development of the Rule of Law and Integrity, invited me to speak in Amman, Jordan, later in the same year, at the Regional Forum on the Role of Civil Society in Promoting the Rule of Law in the Arab Region.
My speech in Amman on “The Role of Civil Society in Protecting the Rule of Law in Pakistan” was equally well-received. At the end of the panel in Amman, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a Judge of the U.S. Supreme Court, who was on the Board of Directors of the Foundation of the Future, invited me to join her as a member of the Board of the FFF. The FFF was an Amman-based regional organization supported by several governments led by the United States to strengthen the work of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) Region. A warm friendship developed with Justice O’Connor for the few days that I was in Amman and she always supported my contribution, even after her retirement from the Board, specially on legal issues in the governance of FFF. I continued to serve on the FFF Board for many years after Justice Sandra O’Connor left the Board but her wisdom and guidance remained available to us at the FFF. Justice O’Connor was on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1981 until her retirement in 2006.
To complete my story of the U.S. Supreme Court Justices that I have had the privilege and pleasure to know, let me also mention my friendship in the 1960s with another U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Potter Stewart, whom I knew, through his family friends, while a student at Yale Law School. Justice Potter Stewart was an important member of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1958 to 1981. This friendship led to the visit, while I was still at Yale, of Justice Potter Stewart to my parents’ house in Lahore and his happiness with that visit, reported to me, on his return to the U.S. His photograph with my father, Shaikh Ahmad Hassan, and brother, Jawed Hassan, adorns, with other photographs, the entrance to my house in Lahore.
RBG, with whom a warm rapport had developed at her dinner the previous night, was most complimentary about the role of lawyers in the struggle for the rule of law in Pakistan
Justice Potter Stewart is no more. And so, recently, is RBG. But I am the richer for the warmth and affection that I received from these two eminent U.S. Supreme Court Justices during their monumental lifetimes.
May Allah bless their souls for the goodness that the two were. I also acknowledge, gratefully, the pleasure of my association with Justice O’Connor who, I hope is healthy, at 90, in her retirement.