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Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s majority opinion in Olmstead v. L.C. may have been her finest hour.
Last month, before the Supreme Court announced its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the disability rights community celebrated the 23rd anniversary of Olmstead v. L.C. But the anniversary of that ruling comes at a time when my sources within the disability rights community tell me that many disability rights lawyers are ultimately deciding against filing lawsuits, lest they give this Supreme Court the opportunity to set back disability rights.
Matthew Cortland, a disability rights lawyer and senior resident fellow at Data for Progress, confirmed as much in a text message to me last week. He wrote, “I think there’s a fairly widespread understanding among the disability rights bar that the majority of this illegitimate Supreme Court is fundamentally hostile to principles of inclusion, access, and bodily autonomy that animate federal disability civil rights law.”
In what may have been Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s finest hour, she wrote the majority opinion in Olmstead, which found that unjustified segregation of people with disabilities violated the principles of the Americans With Disabilities Act, a ruling that was revolutionary for people with disabilities.
“First, institutional placement of persons who can handle and benefit from community settings perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life,” she wrote. Ginsburg’s opinion was liberating in that it supported people with disabilities living more integrated lives within their communities.