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Peek inside Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s annotated law school textbook.

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May 20, 2021, 12:55pm

Exciting news—or dispiriting news for would-be collectors: a Columbia Law School textbook once owned by late Supreme Court justice and legal titan Ruth Bader Ginsburg sold yesterday to an anonymous bidder for $18,125 in Heritage Auctions’ Manuscripts Auction.

The textbook in question, The French Legal System: An Introduction to Civil Law Systems, is full of Ginsburg’s notes from Columbia Law, where she transferred from Harvard when her husband Martin Ginsburg took a job in New York City, graduating first in her class and becoming the first woman to be on two major law reviews. The book is the only annotated scholarly book on law belonging to Ginsberg ever offered at auction.

Said Sandra Palomino, Heritage Auctions Historical Manuscript Director, to Above the Law, “So many think of [Ginsburg] as a brilliant jurist, which she was, but that career started only because she was an extraordinary scholar at two of the finest law schools in the world . . . Her handwritten notes offer a glimpse into her mind when she was just beginning to pursue a career in law, making this book an exceptional find for anyone who collects legal or historical documents.”

A few excerpts of the annotations, provided by Heritage Auctions: “Career judic[iary]…Law prof & practitioners can in theory be applied but rare in practice…Written const[itution]. as expression of polit[ical] program of regime not fund[amental]. Unchanging outline of structure of gov’t & basic civ[il] lib[ertie]s…fear of strong exec[utive]…distrust of judges…pre-em of Nat’l Assembly…both- life tenure for judges…Sep[aration] of powers means indep[endent] – not checks & balances…purpose of sep[aration] of power in Fr[ance]…self restraint…Sep[aration] of powers means indep[endent] of each from the other, not checks & balances…Const[itutuional] law re. validity of legis[lation] arises prior to promulgation…protection of indiv[idual] R[igh]ts Not const[itutional] law…Indiv[idual] lib[erties] based on statutes.” For more, you can look inside the textbook below—if your legal curiosity still isn’t satisfied, you’ll have to track down that unidentified bidder.

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