Ginsburg took senior status at age 65 in October 2011, and joined the faculty of New York University School of Law in January 2012. He is the author of numerous scholarly works on antitrust and constitutional law. He is not related to Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Ginsburg is the son of Katherine (née Goodmont) and Maurice Ginsburg. He graduated from The Latin School of Chicago in 1963, then attended Cornell University. After dropping out in 1965 due to "boredom", he invested in and helped run Operation Match, an early computer dating service based in Boston. Returning to Cornell in 1968 after selling the company, Ginsburg received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1970. He graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 1973, where he served on the University of Chicago Law Review with Frank Easterbrook. Ginsburg then became a law clerk first for Judge Carl McGowan on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and then for United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
From 1975 to 1983 Ginsburg was a professor at Harvard Law School. From 1983 to 1986, he served in the Reagan administration, as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, in the Office of Management and Budget, and as Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General in the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice. From 1988 until 2008, he was an Adjunct Professor at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Virginia, where he taught a seminar called "Readings in Legal Thought." Until 2011 he was also a Visiting Lecturer and Charles J. Merriam Scholar at the University of Chicago Law School in Chicago, Illinois. Ginsburg has been a visiting professor at Columbia University Law School (1987–1988) and a visiting scholar at New York Law School (2006–2008). He is currently a Professor of Law at George Mason University and a Visiting Professor at the University of London, Faculty of Laws. He serves on the advisory boards of the Global Antitrust Institute (Chairman), the Jevons Institute for Competition Law and Economics and the Centre for Law, Economics, and Society, both at University College London, Faculty of Laws; Competition Policy International; Journal of Competition Law & Economics; Journal of Law, Economics & Policy; Supreme Court Economic Review; University of Chicago Law Review; and the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy.
Ginsburg was nominated by President Ronald Reagan on September 23, 1986, to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated by Judge J. Skelly Wright. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on October 8, 1986, and received commission on October 14, 1986. He served as Chief Judge from 2001 to 2008. He assumed senior status on October 14, 2011.
He was a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States, 2001–2008, and previously served on its Budget Committee, 1997–2001, and Committee on Judicial Resources, 1987–1996; American Bar Association, Antitrust Section, Council, 1985–1986 (ex officio), 2000–2003 and 2009–2012 (judicial liaison); Boston University Law School, Visiting Committee, 1994–1997; and University of Chicago Law School, Visiting Committee, 1985–1988.
On October 29, 1987, President Reagan nominated Ginsburg to the Supreme Court of the United States to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Lewis Powell, announced on June 26. Ginsburg, age 41, was chosen after the United States Senate, controlled by Democrats, had voted down the nomination of Judge Robert Bork after a bruising confirmation battle which ended with a 42–58 vote on October 23.
Ginsburg's nomination collapsed for entirely different reasons from Bork's rejection, as he almost immediately came under some fire when NPR's Nina Totenberg revealed that Ginsburg had used marijuana "on a few occasions" during his student days in the 1960s and while an assistant professor at Harvard in the 1970s. It was Ginsburg's continued use of marijuana after graduation and as a professor that made his actions more serious in the minds of many senators and members of the public.
Due to these allegations, Ginsburg withdrew his name from consideration on November 7, and remained on the Court of Appeals, serving as chief judge for most of the 2000s. Anthony Kennedy was then nominated on November 11 and confirmed in early February 1988 as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.