Legendary Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dead at 87

Courtesy of Wikimedia

Courtesy of Wikimedia

Miles Goldstein

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Sept. 18  at age 87. Heralded by many as a champion of gender equality, her death sent waves through the political world and circles beyond.

Born in 1933 in Brooklyn, New York, she attended Cornell Universiy and worked various legal jobs after her graduation, finding difficulty securing positions in her early years due to discrimination. However, in 1980 she was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals by President Jimmy Carter. She was seen as a moderate consensus builder, which led to her appointment in 1993 by President Clinton to the U.S. Supreme Court, where she became the second female justice and first Jewish woman to serve. She had battled various cancers for years before succumbing to pancreatic cancer last Friday. 

Thousands gathered at vigils across the country to mourn the late justice, most notably at a spontaneous vigil Friday night on the stairs of the Supreme Court. The vigil, which fell on Erev Rosh Hashanah, featured two spontaneous recitations of the Mourner’s Kaddish, NBC reported.

“There’s no one here being angry. It’s this sense of quiet contemplation, this sense of respect,” a participant told Reuters. Looming overhead the message of peace and respect is the question of filling the now vacant seat.

“Use my words against me,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (South Carolina – R) said in a 2016 clip now gone viral, “let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.” When Justice Antonin Scalia died in early 2016, Republicans refused to vote on President Obama’s appointee, Merrick Garland, citing an unwritten precedent called the “Thurmond Rule,” which CBS described as “an informal understanding…that only consensus nominees would be considered in the latter part of a presidential election year.” 

While the Thurmond Rule is wholly non-binding and inconsistently enforced, especially with respect to lower-level federal courts, many are quick to point out how many Republicans, like Sen. Graham, have quickly changed their stance. The rule is most often invoked, however, when politically advantageous, and without a Senate majority, Democrats will have a hard time blocking a vote from occurring. That does not mean some are not already trying, though.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) refused to rule out impeaching President Trump a second time to delay the Justice appointment, while other Democrats, like Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee), have advocated for impeaching Attorney General William Barr for obstruction of justice. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has said he will staunchly oppose any effort to push through a nominee.

President Trump spoke for the majority Republican opinion when he said the Senate had an “obligation” to appoint a judge before Election day. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) echoed this, vowing to push through a nomination before November. However, some Republicans have raised dissenting opinions, notably Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who said she believed the decision should be made by “the President elected on Nov. 3.”

After teasing an announcement of his pick since Sept. 19th at a North Carolina Rally, President Trump officially put forward his choice for the nomination on Sept. 26, 48 year old Judge Amy Coney Barrett. 

Judge Barrett, on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is widely liked by Republicans for her socially conservative stances, criticism of Obamacare, support of immigration executive orders from the Trump administration, and outspoken criticism of pro-abortion rulings. She advocated for what she called the “hollowing out” of Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion case,  at a Jacksonville seminar in 2019. Her stances make her popular among the religious right, and, at only 48, she would be able to shape the Supreme Court for years to come.