Welcome to Part 2 of our series highlighting stories of the achievements and challenges faced by some of the most distinguished women judges in our history. We are honored to speak today with Professor Deborah Jones Merritt. Debby believes that true progress only occurs in the presence of a great deal of optimism. She witnessed such optimism in none other than Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg as their law clerk. She speaks with us today about how the wisdom and unique perspectives of these remarkable women has shaped this nation’s history as well as her own philosophy and career path.
In the earliest days of Debby’s legal career she had the enviable good fortune of clerking for both the then- Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg when she was somewhat unexpectedly appointed to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals and then for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in her first year on the United States Supreme Court.
Indeed the lessons she learned from RBG and SOC built the framework for the rest of her career, much of which she has focused on teaching law students how to be good lawyers.
After a brief experience in private practice working as a litigator in Atlanta, Debby followed her true calling to become Professor Merritt, first at the University of Illinois College of Law and then at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, where she serves today as Distinguished University Professor and the John Deaver Drinko / Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law Emerita. From 2017—2019, Professor Merritt served on the ABA’s Commission on the Future of Legal Education. Her current research focuses on identifying the knowledge and skills that new lawyers need to most effectively serve their clients. She is the co-principal investigator on a nationwide empirical study of new lawyers’ work, titled “Building a Better Bar.”
Our episode last week featured Lauren Rikleen, the editor of the ABA’s recently published, Her Honor: Stories of Challenge and Triumph from Women Judges. Debby authored the concluding essay in this compilation, which highlights the significant contributions of the honorable Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to justice and the rule of law.
Episode Links and Resources:
My Own Words, Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg – A Life, Jane Sherron De Hart
Lazy B, Sandra Day O’Connor and H. Alan Day
First: Sandra Day O’Connor, Evan Thomas
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