Supreme Court Justice and civil rights champion Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87


Zach Gilbert

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an icon for women across the nation, and her passing leaves all of American politics in disarray. Photo courtesy of AP.

On Friday, Sept. 18, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at her home in Washington at the age of 87 after a battle with metastatic pancreatic cancer.

A champion of the women’s rights movement, Ginsburg was appointed to the Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. Over time, Ginsburg became a leader for the liberal perspective on the Court as a staunch defender of several contentious social issues, including abortion access, same-sex marriage and voting rights. She earned admiration from women across the nation, who dubbed her “the Notorious RBG.”

Before taking the bench, Ginsburg was as an advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union. She worked tirelessly to ensure that the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection of the laws” applied to Americans of any gender.

In one of her most famous opinions on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg led the charge in United States v. Virginia, which allowed women to attend the formerly all-male Virginia Military Institute.

“The constitutional violation in this case is the categorical exclusion of women from an extraordinary educational opportunity afforded to men,” Ginsburg wrote in her majority opinion in 1996.

Beginning in 1999, Ginsburg has battled cancer five times. Her most recent struggles resurfaced in early 2020, and she had been undergoing chemotherapy treatment for lesions on her liver since late July.

Ginsburg’s passing comes six weeks before Election Day, which raises questions about whether President Donald Trump should attempt to push a replacement Supreme Court Justice through the Republican-led Senate to be confirmed, or whether the seat should remain vacant until the results of the 2020 election are revealed.

“We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices,” Trump tweeted on Saturday afternoon. “We have this obligation, without delay!”

On Sept. 26, Trump announced his official nomination of conservative jurist Amy Coney Barret to fill Ginsburg’s seat.

Despite blocking President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Judge Merrick Garland in 2016 – also an election year – after the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell noted his intention to push for a replacement for Ginsburg as soon as possible in a statement released on Friday evening.

“President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” McConnell said.

However, in spite of McConnell’s insistence, not all Republicans have aligned with his urgency. Maine Senator Susan Collins released a statement on Saturday afternoon that explicitly laid out her opposition to a vote that would take place prior to the election.

“In fairness to the American people, who will either be reelecting the president or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the president who is elected on Nov. 3,” Collins said.

Democratic presidential nominee Vice President Joe Biden offered praise for Ginsburg’s achievements and remorse for her passing upon hearing the news of her death on Friday evening. In addition, he insisted that no replacement for Ginsburg be nominated or voted on until Americans are able to have their say in the presidential race in November.

“Let me be clear: The voters should pick a President, and that President should select a successor to Justice Ginsburg,” Biden tweeted on Friday evening.