Friends in High Places
Reader's Digest US|September 2021
How a surprise adventure turned into the story of a lifetime for two Supreme Court justices—and me
David Yellen

In the summer of 2001, my wife and I flew to Nice, France, to host Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The law school where I was dean had a summer program there, and Justice Ginsburg had agreed to give some lectures. I hadn’t met her before, and my wife, Leslie, and I were both pretty nervous, but the impeccable justice and her witty husband, Marty, were warmly conversational and easy to be with.

One day we were standing in our hotel lobby when Justice Ginsburg said, “That looks like fun.” Parasailors were flying above the sea. “I’d like to try it.”

Leslie and I laughed nervously. But Marty knew his wife well enough to take her musings seriously. “You’re crazy,” he said. Though I had no real desire to parasail, I did feel an obligation to look after Justice Ginsburg, so when she said she intended to go, I offered to join her.

The next morning, we all marched down to the beach. With a little dark humor, Marty told his wife, “I’ll remember you to our grandchildren.” Leslie, thinking about the future of the country, said to me, “If only one of you can be saved, it had better not be you!”

At the beach, the two of us were strapped into a tandem apparatus attached to a boat, and up we zoomed. I think we both had a jolt of fear as we took off, but we got comfortable pretty quickly. The view was spectacular, and the silence very peaceful. When we started dropping toward the water, Justice Ginsburg seemed concerned, but once I reassured her that we’d go only low enough to touch the warm Mediterranean with our feet, she relaxed. Minutes later, we were greeted on the ground by our relieved spouses.

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