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Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks at SMU

DALLAS — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Monday that the confirmation process has become much more partisan and that she probably never would have made it to the high court under the current climate.

"I wish we could wave a magic wand and go back to the days when the process was bipartisan," Ginsburg told the crowd of about 2,000 as she spoke as part of a lecture series for Southern Methodist University's Dedman School of Law.

Ginsburg was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the Supreme Court in 1993. At the time, she became the second woman to take a seat on the high court. She is now one of three.

During a question-and-answer format with the law school's dean, Ginsburg talked touched on subjects ranging from what it was like to be both a mother and a law school student to cases she worked on as an attorney to the toughest part of her job as a justice, which she said was considering death penalty cases.

Before her appointment to the Supreme Court, she served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a spot she was appointed to in 1980. She has also been a law school professor and served as general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union in addition to helping launch its Women's Rights Project.

Ginsburg said that to practice for her Senate confirmation hearings, White House staffers in mock hearings grilled her on her work for the ACLU. During those mock hearings she told them: "There's nothing you can do to get me to bad mouth the ACLU."

Such grilling, though, did not happen, she said. She was confirmed 96-3.

"Today, my ACLU connection would probably disqualify me," she said.

She said Clinton had hoped to have regular dinners with the nine justices, but that never happened.

"He was hit first with Paula Jones and then other things," she said.

Ginsburg called joining the court with the first woman ever to take a spot on the bench, Sandra Day O'Connor, "like having a big sister."

Ginsburg said that she attributes her success in law school to her daughter, who as 14 months old when she started. One afternoon, she said she was studying when her daughter walked in with a mouth full of moth balls. A trip to the hospital, she said, "put things into perspective."

"The practice exams didn't seem that important anymore," she said.

Ginsburg, who at 78 is the oldest justice on the Supreme Court, attended Harvard Law School from 1956 to 1958 before transferring to Columbia Law School, where she graduated in 1959.

Ginsburg said that the first thing she does when she's about to consider a case is look at the opinions of the courts below.

"We're on the top of a very fine judicial system," she said.

Ginsburg took a moment at the beginning of the program to speak about the woman the lecture series was named for, the late Louise B. Raggio. Raggio was the first female district attorney in Dallas County and was influential in passing the Texas Marital Property Act of 1967, which gave married women legal rights to their own property.