Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University
This Month @ Moritz

Professor Ruth Colker Cited by U. S. Supreme Court

Ruth ColkerBy every measure Professor Ruth Colker has been extremely successful as a scholar and teacher. She has written five books for academic presses and one casebook along with a handbook. Two of her books have won major awards. She has also published more than 50 scholarly articles in journals such as the Harvard Law Review, Yale Law Journal, Columbia Law Journal, University of Michigan Law Journal, and the University of Virginia Law Review.

She is a frequent guest on National Public Radio, where her views on current issues in disability and constitutional law have had impact beyond the confines of academia. Professor Colker is also an innovator in the classroom. The students in her Disability Discrimination class produce accessibility studies that have been helpful to the University in trying to eliminate accessibility barriers for students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus.

Ruth's usual advice to an aspiring or new law professor may be surprising: "Do what you have a passion for, not what you think will be successful." But she has followed her own advice.

Her passion has been uncovering the unfair treatment that members of certain groups have historically been subject to and then doing her best to bring about constructive change. It is a passion she has followed since high school when she collected and published data that showed unequal funding of boys and girls athletics. Ignoring concerns of others that activism would hurt her chances of getting into college, she testified before the local school district and the state boards of education and wrote a manuscript, published by an affiliate of the National Organization of Women, called "Testimony of a High School Pitcher."

Following graduation from Harvard Law School, Ruth started her academic career at Tulane Law School in 1985. At first her scholarship focused on feminist theory, and she wrote a number of books and articles that continue to be widely cited and excerpted in casebooks. But the AIDS crisis was erupting, and Ruth's passion would not permit her to work only in the library. With an interest in gay and lesbian rights, she started helping those who were litigating AIDS cases. The involvement in AIDS litigation and her interest in the legal position of women led to teaching and scholarship interests in another historically disadvantaged group--individuals with disabilities. When Ruth moved to the University of Pittsburgh Law School in 1993, she started teaching disability discrimination. Because there were no course materials, she had to develop her own and eventually published them as a casebook. With co-authors there have now been four editions.

Professor Colker honored
Professor Colker, far right, was honored for winning the Distinguished Diversity Enhancement Award at the OSU vs. Minnesota halftime ceremony in Columbus last fall.

In 1997 Ruth came to Ohio State. Despite her heavy scholarly output, she teaches both first-year and upper-level classes, including an innovative course in disability discrimination. Her work on making the Ohio State campus more accessible was recently recognized when she was awarded the University's Distinguished Diversity Enhancement Award. Ruth used the grant that accompanies the award to create a special disability seating section in rear of the College's Saxbe Auditorium. Ruth was also a recipient of the University's Distinguished Lecturer Award in 2001, and the University Distinguished Scholar Award in 2003.

Juggling scholarship, teaching, and pro bono work seem difficult enough, but Ruth has at least one – or, rather, two – additional claims on her time. They are seven-year-old Sammy and twelve-year-old Cara. An accomplished athlete herself (avid runner, captain of her college crew team, and at one time ranked fourth in national light-weight single sculls), Ruth takes particular interest in Cara's competitive swimming. A typical day for Ruth involves coordinating with her husband, Edward Eybel, to get Cara to swim practice and Sammy to kindergarten, as well as working on her latest article and preparing for the next major presentation. Weekends, of course, are spent at swim meets.

How does she do it all? Like many good athletes, Ruth makes difficult achievements look easy.

Publications

Books

The Americans with Disabilities Act: The First Decade of Enforcement (New York University Press 2004) (forthcoming)

The Law of Disability Discrimination (with A. Milani & B.P. Tucker) (Lexis: Anderson Publishing Company 2003) (4th Edition) (forthcoming)

The Law of Disability Discrimination Handbook: Statutes and Regulatory Guidance (with A. Milani & B.P. Tucker) (Lexis: Anderson Publishing Company 2004) (4th edition) (forthcoming)

American Law in the Age of Hypercapitalism: The Worker, The Family, and the State (New York University Press 1998)

Hybrid: Bisexuals, Multiracials, and Other Misfits Under American Law (New York University Press 1996)
Awarded the 1997 Myers Center Award for the Study of Human Rights in North America for outstanding work on intolerance in North America

Pregnant Men: Practice, Theory, and the Law (Indiana University Press 1994)

Abortion and Dialogue: Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, and American Law (Indiana University Press 1992)
Named an Outstanding Academic Book by the Association Of College and Research Librarians

Book Chapters

"The Death of Section 504" in Backlash Against the Americans with Disabilities Act: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Linda Hamilton Krieger 2002) (University of Michigan Press)

"ADA Title III: A Fragile Compromise" in Americans with Disabilities: Exploring Implications of the Law for Individuals and Institutions 293 (Leslie Pickering Francis and Anita Silvers eds. 2000) (Routledge Press)

"Americans with Disabilities Act" in Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, Supplement II (Leonard W. Levy, Kenneth L. Karst and Adam Winkler eds. 2000)

"Disability Discrimination" in Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, Supplement II (Leonard W. Levy, Kenneth L. Karst and Adam Winkler eds. 2000)

"The Americans with Disabilities Act: A Windfall for Defendants" in Civil Rights Litigation and Attorney Fees Annual Handbook, vol. 14 (Steven Saltzman ed. 1999)

"Affirmative Action, Reasonable Accommodation and Capitalism: An Irreconcilable Conflict?" in Justice for People with Disabilities: Legal and Institutional Issues (Marge Hauritz, Charles Stamford and Sophie Blencowe eds. 1998)

"Disembodiment: Abortion and Gay Rights," in Radical Philosophy of Law (Steven Jay Gold & David S. Caudill eds.) Humanities Press 1994)

"Abortion and the Constitution," in The Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, Supplement I (Leonard W. Levy, Kenneth L. Karst & Adam Winkler eds. 1991)

"Feminism, Sexuality and Authenticity," in At the Boundaries of Law: Feminism and Legal Theory (M. Fineman & N. Thomadsen eds., 1991)

"Equality as Compassion," in The Evolving U.S. Constitution 1787-1987 (Institute of American Culture, Republic of China ed. 1989)

Special thanks to Professor Allan J. Samansky, for his help on this article.