The World Justice Project lost two leading champions for our rule of law cause with the passing last week of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and William H. Gates, Sr., both Honorary Chairs of the Project. We were honored by their longstanding involvement in our work and commit ourselves to making the WJP a worthy part of their legacy. We share here our memories and tributes to their work.
Hon. Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away September 18, 2020, was renowned for her tireless work in service to the causes of justice and equality. She came of age at a time when few avenues were open to women, yet she imagined and helped foster a world in which all should be treated equally. Through hard work and brilliance, she rose to the pinnacle of her profession, leaving an indelible mark on U.S. legal jurisprudence as an advocate, teacher, and distinguished jurist of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Undergirding her many contributions was a deep commitment to the rule of law and an undying optimism about the power of law to make change. "Justice Ginsburg was a great believer in the law and dedicated her life to making its promise a reality," commented Chair of the WJP Board of Directors William Hubbard. "The impact of her work did not stop at the US border; it inspired the world."
Justice Ginsburg was an Honorary Chair of the World Justice Project from its founding and attended three of its global World Justice Forums. Addressing the Forum in 2017, Justice Ginsburg said her optimism stemmed from the progress she had witnessed in her lifetime. "I have lived long enough to see some remarkable changes," she observed. "I grew up during the Second World War, and to see the end of that horror. As remarkable, to see the end of apartheid, and not only in South Africa, but in our own country […]. I have seen changes that some people said would never happen," she said. Noting the progress on women's rights, she said, "I’m happy, I'm more than happy—exhilarated—to see the changes that have occurred."
"It is now up to all of us to be infected by that optimistic spirit and to carry the cause of justice and the rule of law forward," remarked WJP founder and CEO William H. Neukom.
William H. Gates, Sr.
WJP mourns the passing on September 14, 2020, of William H. ("Bill") Gates, Sr., who exemplified the role of lawyer as civic leader. Over nearly five decades of private practice, he founded and led the premier Seattle law firm of Preston, Gates & Ellis and served as President of the county and state bar associations as well as the national Conference of State Bar Presidents.
A passionate advocate for equity, Gates championed legal aid for the poor, and he was actively involved in the United Way and Planned Parenthood, among many local causes. In the mid-1990s, he took these interests global when he left the practice of law to serve as co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
As a lawyer, he well understood the role that the rule of law plays as a foundation of successful societies, and he was an early supporter of and active participant in the World Justice Project.
"Bill Gates Senior was a lawyer's lawyer, a courageous and inclusive bar leader who had the curiosity and intellectual honesty to learn from disparate opinions and to lead informed deliberations about complicated topics. He was the ultimate 'useful citizen' who made time from his active practice and engaging family to participate and support civil society locally, nationally and even internationally," said Neukom. "His devotion to justice inspired thousands of lawyers, hundreds of organizations and served as the inspiration for the founding of the World Justice Project."