On Friday, the Supreme Court announced that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died at 87. She passed away in her home as a result of complications from a years-long struggle with metastatic pancreas cancer.
Ginsburg, known popularly as RBG, was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1993 and in recent years has served as the most senior member of the court’s liberal wing. Her vote has proved pivotal in many of the most pressing social issues America faces today — including abortion rights, same-sex marriage, voting rights, immigration, health care and affirmative action.
With Election Day rapidly approaching, Ginsburg’s death opens the possibility of another Supreme Court nomination from President Donald Trump — which, if passed, would be his third Supreme Court appointment.
NPR reported that Ginsburg’s granddaughter, Clara Spera, received a dictated text message from the justice before her death hoping that her replacement be appointed by the next president. “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” it said.
But, shortly after, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed that Trump would in fact nominate a replacement. “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United State’s Senate,” he said.
The Supreme Court, which ideologically leans more conservative, became a contested battleground within hours of the justice’s death. Her seat has been a key point of liberal dissent on controversial issues, and another appointment from President Trump could have a huge impact on both overturning past cases and deciding future ones.
As mourners flocked to the Supreme Court to hold vigil for the late justice Friday night, President Trump reacted to her death after a campaign stop in Minnesota. Reporters on the scene broke the news to President Trump as he walked back to Air Force One following the event. “She led an amazing life, what else can you say?” he said. “She was an amazing woman, whether you agreed or not. She was an amazing woman, who led an amazing life.”
Throughout the weekend social media was populated by posts mourning the loss of RBG. From celebrities to politicians, her death sent shockwaves through the nation. In statements released by the Supreme Court, Ginsburg’s colleagues reacted to her death, underscoring how to honor her legacy.
“My dear friend and colleague Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an American hero,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said. “She spent her life fighting for the equality of all people, and she was a pathbreaking champion of women’s rights. She served our Court and country with consummate dedication, tirelessness, and passion for justice. She has left a legacy few could rival.”
.@GOP 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. We have this obligation, without delay!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2020
Despite the calls for President Trump to postpone nominating a new justice, he is set to announce his picks as early as Friday or Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported. The nomination will follow days of public and private mourning of the late justice. Her body will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol, with a formal ceremony on Friday morning. Ginsburg will be the first woman in the nation’s history to receive the honor at the time of her death.
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RBG was an avid proponent of human rights and gender equality. In 2019, she was awarded the Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture, a $1 million award for advancing achievements that shape the world. She donated the prize to several non-profits, including the Malala Fund, American Friends of Hand in Hand, American Bar Foundation, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Washington Concert Opera, among others.
The Illinois Holocaust Center will also continue to operate their exhibit dedicated to Ginsburg, “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg” through January 2021. You can buy tickets here or support the museum’s efforts here.
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Madison Muller is the Assistant Digital Editor at Better. She is a graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, and is currently based in Washington, D.C. Madison reports on social and racial justice and proudly supports Action Now, a community organization that empowers and uplifts residents on Chicago’s West Side.
She also encourages reading and supporting The Marshall Project, a non-profit news organization that seeks to create and sustain a sense of national urgency about the U.S. criminal justice system.