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COLLAPSE OF THE GINSBURG NOMINATION : At the End, Ginsburg Stood Alone--and Still a Puzzle

November 08, 1987|JOHN M. BRODER | Times Staff Writer

There was also a time during his first marriage to Barbara M. deSecundy when, by her own account, she experienced a kind of identity crisis and pronounced herself dissatisfied with everything about herself.

'I Shall Call You Claudia'

"Then I shall call you Claudia," she says Ginsburg declared, conferring on her a name she later adopted legally. It was a gesture from the Age of Aquarius, suggesting a poignant impulse to believe that the gritty problems of life could be swept away with a romantic flourish.

If the lives of most people are a similar patchwork of impulses, styles and values, most people are not candidates for the Supreme Court, and not under the singularly demanding conditions that prevailed for Ginsburg.

Douglas Howard Ginsburg was born in Chicago on May 25, 1946, the third and last child of Maurice and Katherine Goodmont Ginsburg. His father was "a self-educated man" who "would read the encyclopedia from A to Z and then start again," according to the nominee's sister, Sandra Stein, but he prospered as founder of a small loan company and a mortgage firm.

The family lived in a high-rise apartment on North Lake Shore Drive, and Douglas attended private schools, graduating as valedictorian of the select Chicago Latin School.

"The funny thing about Doug Ginsburg is that no one remembers what he thought," says Mary Ann MacFarlane, longtime secretary at Latin. "I remember a lot of kids from his class and could tell you about them, but not Ginsburg."

Ginsburg enrolled at Cornell, in Ithaca, N. Y. "I remember him pretty well," said Dean Rink, who lived in Ginsburg's dormitory during his freshman year. "In comparison to him, I felt like a country boy. . . . I was always amazed at his sophistication. He was very articulate, cultured and interested in a wide variety of subjects--not just politics, but art and literature, too."

After barely a year at Cornell, Ginsburg suddenly quit and--unsure what he wanted to do with his life--joined three Harvard undergraduates in a new computer dating venture, one of the first of its kind in the nation. Operation Match took off, grossing nearly $300,000 in its first nine months. The firm opened offices in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, and Ginsburg moved to New York.

It was there--at an economics class at Hunter College--that he met Barbara.

Ginsburg later returned to Cornell, finished his undergraduate degree and entered the University of Chicago Law School.

If he was still a bookworm, Ginsburg by now could be intellectually aggressive, even brash, in the classroom. In an antitrust class taught by law school dean Philip Neal, Ginsburg and a classmate boldly strode to the front of the room one day to draw a graph on the blackboard and tutor the dean on law and economics.

They're Cut Short

Amused, Neal nonetheless cut them short, saying: "If the professors of economics will return to their seats, the professor of law can continue."

In 1975, Ginsburg joined the Harvard Law School faculty. A lanky, ascetic-looking assistant professor with a thick black beard and a curly halo of prematurely graying hair, he looked like a radical poet but was actually a retiring grind whose only diversion seemed to be going to movies in Harvard Square.

"We were in the mood of 'let's diversify the faculty, let's stop being such a homogeneous place,' " says Richard Parker, a law professor, who was friendly with Ginsburg.

When he moved to Cambridge, Ginsburg separated from his wife; she and their 5-year-old daughter, Jessica deSecundy, lived in Washington.

Jessica--her name at birth was Jennifer Julianne Early Ginsburg but her parents renamed her soon afterward--would spend weekends with him. He doted on his daughter. Neighbors remember the two taking walks along the river and Ginsburg reading aloud to her on the roof deck of his building.

Gradually, Parker and other friends say, Ginsburg seemed to become dissatisfied at the Law School. "He was more conservative than the rest of the faculty, and he found it uncomfortable in the last several years," said law professor Robert Clark, a friend and neighbor. He was also embittered when he was initially denied tenure, in 1979, because he was judged not to have published enough scholarly articles. He wrote a 200-page monograph on interstate banking and was awarded tenure in 1980.

Remarried in 1981

During this period, Ginsburg and deSecundy were divorced, and he became involved with his current wife, Hallee Perkins Morgan, whom he married in May, 1981. They have a daughter, Hallee.

Ginsburg left Harvard in July, 1983, to become a deputy assistant attorney general in the antitrust division of the Justice Department. He was primarily an administrator, personally appearing in court on only one case.

After a year at Justice, he moved to the Office of Management and Budget to run the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs--a stint that provoked bitter controversy and led to a congressional investigation.

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