Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sensible Pragmatism in Federal Jurisdictional Policy

28 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2010 Last revised: 28 May 2010

See all articles by Tobias Barrington Wolff

Tobias Barrington Wolff

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Date Written: April 1, 2010


This article, written as part of a symposium celebrating the work of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the occasion of her fifteenth year on the Supreme Court, examines the strain of sensible legal pragmatism that informs Justice Ginsburg's writing in the fields of Civil Procedure and Federal Jurisdiction. Taking as its point of departure the Supreme Court's decision in City of Chicago v. International College of Surgeons, in which Ginsburg dissented, the article develops an argument against strict textualism in federal jurisdictional analysis. In its place, the article urges a purposive mode of interpretation that approaches jurisdictional text with a presumption in favor of respecting and preserving stable institutional arrangements unless Congress's purpose in altering those arrangements is clear - an analytical mode that Justice Ginsburg's work exemplifies.

Keywords: Ginsburg, Jurisdiction, Civil Procedure, Textualism, Statutory Interpretation, Supreme Court, Pragmatism, Federal Courts

JEL Classification: K00, K1, K10, K4, K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Wolff, Tobias Barrington, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sensible Pragmatism in Federal Jurisdictional Policy (April 1, 2010). Ohio State Law Journal, Vol. 70, No. 4, Pg. 839, 2010, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 10-21, Available at SSRN:

Tobias Barrington Wolff (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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