Words By Jake Nordland
Acclaimed US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died, aged 87. Her storied forty year career saw her become the second ever woman to serve on the US’ highest court. She died from complications of pancreatic cancer at her home, surrounded by family.
Nominated to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993, she served in the position up until her death on the 18th September. She was a widely celebrated liberal-leaning justice, revered for her advocacy of gender and civil rights.
Despite being an early advocate for women’s rights, she started her judicial career as a moderate and cautious judge. But as the Supreme Court developed an increasingly conservative lean, she quickly became known for an activist and reformist approach that thrust her into the liberal cohort of Supreme Court justices.
Ginsburg helped forge groundbreaking court decisions protecting women’s rights in the US. She is credited with inspiring sweeping improvements in the laws surrounding gender pay discrimination. She is also known for securing legal recognition of the safety of abortions, as well as striking down male-only college admissions policies in a landmark case.
Owing to her legacy of women’s and equal rights activism, Ginsburg amassed a pop culture following amongst her cohort of younger liberal fans. She was affectionately referred to as the Notorious RBG, a play on her initials that references late rapper Notorious B.I.G in a nod to her reputation for writing fierce dissenting polemics against the courts’ majority opinions.
Her death opens up a vacancy in the Supreme Court and has ignited a fierce new front in the US general election campaign.The President is in charge of appointing her successor, who must then be confirmed by Congress.
In 2016, President Barack Obama attempted to nominate a candidate to fill a then-vacant Supreme Court seat. Republicans in Congress prevented him from doing so, arguing a nomination should not take place in an election year and should be left for the newly elected President to decide.
But with only two months left until US elections take place this November, President Trump and Congressional Republicans are going ahead with a last-minute appointment to replace Ginsburg regardless.
Democrats have expressed outrage at what they have called hypocrisy over the Republican’s U-turn. They accuse Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of undermining his own words and arguments for preventing Obama’s 2016 nomination.
Democrats argue the position should be filled post-election, as happened in 2016, and have highlighted that Ginsburg specifically requested so before she died, according to her granddaughter Clara Spera.
Republicans have meanwhile maintained that since they control both Congress and the Presidency, today’s situation is different from 2016. President Trump has since announced Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative judge, as Ginsburg’s successor.
Tributes continued to pour in last week as Ruth Ginsburg’s memorial took place in the US Capitol. But whilst she leaves behind a legacy undisputed by those on Capitol Hill, the bitter implications of her death continue to sow further discord into an already contentious US election cycle.