Cal. Litig. 2021, Volume 34, Number 1

RBG (Revered By Generations): Defying and Redefining Labels

By Rupa G. Singh

Rupa G. Singh is a certified appellate specialist who handles complex civil appeals and critical motions in state and federal court at Niddrie Addams Fuller Singh LLP. She is founding president of the San Diego Appellate Inn of Court, former chair of the County Bar’s Appellate Practice Section, and the proud mother of three self-proclaimed RBG groupies.

When nominating her to the United States Supreme Court, President Bill Clinton said that then-Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg had proved herself too thoughtful for such labels as "liberal" or "conservative." Yet average Americans, even those unable to identify more than one or two Supreme Court justices, came to know Justice Ginsburg by an infamous label: the Notorious RBG. The affectionate title came from a blog of the same name by second-year NYU law student Shana Knizhniks, who did a play on rapper Biggie Smalls’ Notorious BIG moniker to honor Justice Ginsburg after her powerful dissent in a landmark voting rights case, Shelby County v. Holder (2013) 570 U.S. 529.

To Justice Ginsburg’s credit, she embraced this tongue-in-cheek nickname gracefully, even recognizing the sentiment behind it as a way to amplify her voice, not define or diminish it. In a 2017 NBC interview, she said that she was proud of Knizhniks for channeling her anger and disappointment at the Supreme Court for holding a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 no longer constitutional in Shelby County into something positive by raising awareness of the decision and Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion on her blog.

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