Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a legal, cultural, and feminist icon, died Friday, September 18, 2020. Ginsberg’s tenure on the Supreme Court lasted nearly three decades (27 years). Ginsburg was nominated to the court on June 14, 1993, by then-President Bill Clinton.
The court, in a statement, said Ginsburg died at her home in Washington surrounded by family. She was 87.
“Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature,” Chief Justice John Roberts said. “We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn but with confidence, that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her, a tired and resolute champion of justice.”
In recent years, the jurist became a pop-cultural icon.
RBG, as she was known by her fans, was a proponent for women’s rights beginning in the 1970s. Recently throngs of young feminists began following her. In her later years, she became known as the notorious RBG, revered for her legal decisions as much as her extreme workouts. (The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong . . . and You Can Too!)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a tireless champion for women, being a leader in the quest for gender equality. At the time her fight began, state and federal laws restricted what women could do, barring them from jobs, rights, and even from jury service.
Ginsberg is the author of the 1996 Supreme Court decision in United States v. Virginia. In the 7-to-1 opinion, Ginsberg declaring that the Virginia Military Institute could no longer remain an all-male institution concluding that VMI’s male-only admissions policy lacked an “exceedingly persuasive justification” for violating the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment
“Reliance on overbroad generalizations … estimates about the way most men or most women are, will not suffice to deny opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description,” Ginsburg wrote.
Throughout her nearly five-decade legal career, Ginsburg became a progressive voice for equality and justice. In 2016 she wrote My Own Words and in 2020 I know This to Be True in which the octogenarian wrote about the law, her family and her battle with cancer. Her death, according to announcements was due complications from metastatic cancer of the pancreas.
Making her death a political statement
In a statement dictated to her granddaughter Clara Spera days before her death, she said, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new President is installed.”
Bringing politics to bear on her death bed.
One may think that other thoughts might occupy one’s mind. The death of the liberal wing of the court – along with associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Associate Justice Elena Kagan – will have a profound effect on the court.
It will also create further controversy for the upcoming election just 48 days away.
One immediate effect will be that Chief Justice John Roberts no longer holds the controlling vote in closely contested cases. Though Roberts carries a conservative record, Robert’s did cast votes to at least temporarily protect the so-called Dreamers from deportation by the Trump administration. Other liberal-leaning votes by the jurist include upholding a major abortion precedent and to uphold bans on large church gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ginsberg’s death reduces the court to eight jurists, including the aforementioned Roberts, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Other justices are Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh. The latter two being appointees by President Trump. Bader’s death leaves only Stephen Breyer as the only reliable liberal justice along with Sotomayor and Kagan.
Upcoming Political Battle for the soul of America
Following the November 3 presidential election, the court will hear a challenge brought by Republicans to the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. While the high court upheld the law by a 5-t0-4 vote, Justice Roberts with the deciding vote. However, with Ginsburg’s death, outcomes may well be different.
With Ginsburg’s passing, President Trump will appoint a third justice to the court, releasing just last week a list of possible nominees. Democrats will cry out against any Trump appointment, particularly with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to consider President Obama’s supreme court nomination of Merrick Garland. McConnell has made it clear, however, that even though he would not approve hearings for Garland due to an “upcoming election year” he will absolutely work to fill Ginsberg’s vacancy, even if Trump loses the 2020 Election.
The fight over the Kavanaugh hearings
Americans, mostly disgusted over the railroading of Brett Kavanaugh by Christy Blasey Ford during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, will most likely react negatively to a repeat of the hearings. At the time a number of Senate Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, were vocal in their intent to oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation. (Smearing Brett Kavanaugh: NYT, Harris, and Booker live in glass houses)
Should Democrats choose to contest President Trump’s nomination of a replacement for Judge Ginsburg, they must consider that the videos of leading Democrats, including Vice Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris, impugning then-Judge Kavanaugh’s character based on unsubstantiated accusations, will not play in Democrats favor.
President Trump recently updates his list of possible Supreme Court Justice nominees that includes persons from Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT)to a long list of judges that the President has appointed to the United States Court of Appeals, District Courts, State Supreme Courts and persons from the Executive Branch.
A leading contender may be Amy Coney Barrett (Who might succeed Justice Ginsburg? Trump’s shortlist begins with these four women (and one man). Barrett is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and the first and only woman to occupy an Indiana seat on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
Barrett confirmation will be a fight
During her confirmation hearing to the Court of Appeals, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein grilled Barrett about whether her Catholic faith would influence her decision-making on the court saying, “the dogma lives loudly within you, and that is a concern”. The liberals worry being that Barrett would not uphold Roe v. Wade given her Catholic beliefs.
Barrett is known as an “originalist” and a “textualist.” Her judicial philosophy is similar to that of Antonin Scalia, her mentor, and former boss.
Defending the doctrine of originalism, or strict adherence to the Constitution, Larsen wrote in a 2010 law review article that originalists do not oppose change.