Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a prominent women’s rights advocate who became the second female judge on the court, died Friday at her home in Washington. She was 87 years old.
The court said Ginsberg died of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer.
Her death six weeks before Election Day is likely to spark an uphill battle over whether President Donald Trump should run, and the Republican-led Senate must confirm her replacement or whether the seat should remain vacant until the outcome of the race against Democrat Joe. Biden is well known.
Trump, who described Ginsburg as a “wonderful woman,” made his point on Saturday: He urged the Senate to consider “without delay” its next selection to the Supreme Court. Trump wrote on Twitter: “We have placed us in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who elected us with pride, and the most important of which has long been the selection of judges of the Supreme Court of the United States. We have that commitment, without delay!”
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said late Friday that the Senate would vote, even though it is an election year.
Biden said the November election winner should choose Ginsburg’s replacement. “There is no doubt – let me be clear – that voters must choose the president and the president must choose justice that is being considered by the Senate,” Biden told reporters after returning to his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, from a campaign stoppage in Minnesota. .
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts mourned the death of Ginsberg. Our nation has lost a jurist of historical standing. In the Supreme Court we lost a dear colleague. “We mourn today, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her – a tireless heroine of justice,” Roberts said in a statement.
Ginsburg announced in July that she was undergoing chemotherapy for lesions on her liver, in the latest of her many battles with cancer.
Ginsburg spent her final years on the bench as the undisputed leader of the liberal wing on court and became a rock star to her fans. Young women in particular seemed to embrace the court’s Jewish grandmother, affectionately describing her as the notorious RBG, for her defense of the rights of women and minorities, and the strength and resilience she had shown in the face of personal loss and health crises.
These health problems included five episodes of cancer that began in 1999, falls that led to fractured ribs, insertion of a stent to clear an artery blockage, and various other treatments in the hospital after I turned 75.
It resisted calls from liberals to retire during Barack Obama’s presidency at a time when Democrats were running the Senate and it was possible to confirm an alternative with similar views. Instead, Trump will almost certainly try to push Ginsburg’s successor through the Republican-controlled Senate – and move the Conservative court further to the right.
Ginsburg provoked antagonizing Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign in a series of media interviews, including describing him as a fraud. Soon, she apologized.
Her appointment by President Bill Clinton in 1993 was the first by a Democrat in 26 years. I initially found a cozy ideological home somewhere to the left of center in a conservative court dominated by Republican appointees. Her liberal voice grew the longer she served.
Ginsburg has been a mother of two, an opera lover and an thinker who has been watching the arguments behind oversized glasses for many years, though she ditched them for more fashionable frames in her later years. In the ornate courtroom debating sessions, she’s notorious for delving into case records and being sticky by following the rules.
She championed six major cases in court in the 1970s when she was the architect of the women’s rights movement. She won five years.
Clinton said at the time of her appointment, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg does not need a seat on the Supreme Court to earn her place in American history books.” “I already did.”
After her death, Clinton said, “The 27 years in court have exceeded my highest expectations when I appointed her.”
In court, where she was known as the Easy Writer, her most important opinion was the 1996 ruling that ordered the Virginia Military Institute to accept women or give up its state funding, and the 2015 resolution that upheld independent commissions some states use to draw congressional districts.
Besides civil rights, Ginsburg took an interest in the death penalty, and repeatedly voted to limit its use. During its tenure, the court declared it unconstitutional for states to execute the mentally handicapped and murderers under the age of 18.
Additionally, she questioned the quality of the attorneys for the poor accused murderers. In the most divisive case, including the Bush v. Gore decision in 2000, she was often at odds with the most conservative members of the court – initially Chief Justice William Reinquist, Judges Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, and Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas.
The division remained the same after John Roberts replaced Reinquist as president of the court, Samuel Alito took the seat of O’Connor, and Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh joined the court, under Trump’s ruling, in the seats that Scalia and Kennedy held respectively.
Ginsburg would later say that Resolution 5-4 that settled the 2000 presidential election for Republican George W. Bush was “an amazing episode” in court.
She was perhaps closer in court to Scalia, her ideological opposite. Ginsburg once made it clear that she viewed Scalia’s sometimes blunt opposition as a challenge to take on. “How am I going to answer this in a way that is real dampening?” She said.
When Scalia died in 2016, also an election year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to act on Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to fill in the inauguration. The seat remained vacant even after Trump’s surprise presidential victory. McConnell said he would step in to confirm Trump’s nominee if there is a vacancy this year.
In a phone call late Friday, Senator Lindsey Graham, the head of the Judiciary Committee, refused to reveal any plans. He described Ginsburg as a “pioneer” and said, “While I have had many differences with her in legal philosophy, I appreciate her service to our nation.”
McConnell, in a memo to his fellow Republicans Friday night, urged them to “keep their powder dry” and not rush to announce a position on whether the Trump candidate should get a vote this year. “This is not the time to lock yourselves prematurely in a situation that you may regret later,” he said.
“The American people should have a voice in choosing their next Supreme Court judge. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,” Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, wrote on Twitter.
Ginsburg has built strong opposition of her own on issues related to abortion, voting rights, and wage discrimination against women. She said some were aimed at influencing the opinions of fellow judges, while others were “appeals to another day’s intelligence” in the hope that they would provide guidance for future courts.
“Hope lives forever,” she said in 2007, “and when I write opposition, I always hope to get that fifth or sixth vote – although I’m often disappointed.”
I wrote memorably in 2013 that the court’s decision to repeal a key part of the federal law that guaranteed voting rights for blacks, Spaniards, and other minorities was “like throwing an umbrella away in a rainstorm because you’re not getting wet.”
The change in pitch hit Ginsburg hard. She vehemently vetoed the court’s 2007 decision upholding a national ban on performing abortions, which opponents call partial abortion. The court, with O’Connor remaining in it, overturned a similar state ban seven years earlier. Ginsburg said the ruling was “disturbing,” “it cannot be understood as anything other than an attempt to do away with a right that this court has repeatedly proclaimed – and with an increased understanding of its central importance in a woman’s life.”
In 1999, Ginsburg underwent colon cancer surgery and received radiation and chemotherapy. She underwent surgery again in 2009 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and in December 2018 due to a precancerous growth in her left lung. After her recent surgery, she missed court hearings for the first time in more than 25 years on the bench.
Ginsberg was also treated with radiation from a pancreatic tumor in August 2019. She maintained an active schedule even during the three weeks of radiation. When she revealed that she had recurring cancer in July 2020, Ginsburg said she was still “fully capable” of continuing to work as justice.
Joan Ruth Bader was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1933, the second daughter in a middle-class family. Her older sister, whom she nicknamed “Kiki” for life, died at the age of six, so Ginsburg grew up in Brooklyn’s Flatbush department as an only child. She said that her dream was to become an opera singer.
Ginsberg graduated at the top of her class at Columbia Law School in 1959, but was unable to find a law firm willing to hire her. She had “three hits against her” – for being Jewish, female and mother, as she put it in 2007.
She married her husband Martin in 1954, the year she graduated from Cornell University. She attended Harvard Law School but moved to Colombia when her husband took a job in law there. Martin Ginsburg went on to become a prominent tax attorney and law professor. Martin Ginsberg passed away in 2010. She has two children, Jane and James, and several grandchildren.
Ginsburg once said that she did not enter the law as a champion of equal rights. “I thought I could do a better job as a lawyer than any other job,” she wrote. “I don’t have a knack for the arts, but I write fairly well and solve problems clearly.”