Ruth Bader Ginsburg Interrupts Male Lawyer Who Confused Her with Another Female Supreme Court Justice

April 29th 2016

Lucy Tiven

At a Supreme Court hearing on Wednesday, a lawyer made an embarrassing slip-up. 

He addressed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by the name of another iconic female Supreme Court justice — Sandra Day O’Connor.

Noel Francisco was representing former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in a corruption appeal, the Huffington Post reports. Ginsburg had posed a question about federal anti-bribery statutes, and asked if "it would be acceptable for every government official to seek payment before taking a meeting," the Hill reported.

“There are lots of other statutes that would prohibit precisely what you are suggesting, Justice O’Connor, and you don’t have to interpret — ” the lawyer began, when Ginsburg hilariously interjected, “That hasn’t happened in quite some time."

Aside from gender, O’Connor and Ginsburg don't have a lot in common.

O’Connor and Ginsburg were the first two female justices appointed to the Supreme Court bench, but their legal views differ greatly. The two women also don't look or speak the same way.

O’Connor, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan and retired from the bench in 2006, was a conservative justice, while Ginsburg was appointed by President Bill Clinton and has become all-but-synonymous with her liberal views, support of marriage equality, and staunch pro-choice stance.

But, as Ginsburg keenly pointed out, this wasn't the first time someone made this particular mistake.

"In the 12½ years we served together, court watchers have seen that women speak in different voices, and hold different views, just as men do," she wrote, in a 2013 essay on Politico. "Even so, some advocates, each term, revealed that they had not fully adjusted to the presence of two women on the high court bench."

Ginsburg recalls another moment the two were confused for eachother.

"During oral argument, many a distinguished counsel — including a Harvard Law School professor and more than one solicitor general — began his response to my question: “Well, Justice O’Connor … .” Sometimes when that happened, Sandra would smile and crisply remind counsel: “She’s Justice Ginsburg. I’m Justice O’Connor.” Anticipating just such confusion, in 1993, my first term as a member of the court, the National Association of Women Judges had T-shirts made for us. Justice O’Connor’s read, “I’m Sandra, not Ruth,” mine, “I’m Ruth, not Sandra.”

Francisco quickly realized his goof, and apologized, “Justice Ginsburg. I am very, very, very sorry," — but not before the courtroom erupted in laughter. In early 2015, Ginsburg famously answered a question about when there "would be enough" women on the bench, asserting "when there are nine." Apparently, that could prove very confusing for some attorneys.

[h/t the Huffington Post]