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Saturday, 19 September 2020 22:40

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dead at 87

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Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer, the court announced. She was 87.

Ginsburg was appointed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and in recent years served as the most senior member of the court's liberal wing, consistently delivering progressive votes on the most divisive social issues of the day, including abortion rights, same-sex marriage, voting rights, immigration, health care and affirmative action. 

Her death -- less than seven weeks before Election Day -- opens up a political fight over the future of the court. Addressing the liberal justice's death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday evening, "President Trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate."

But Ginsburg told her granddaughter she wanted her replacement to be appointed by the next president, NPR reported. "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed," she dictated to granddaughter Clara Spera days before her death.

"She led an amazing life. What else can you say?" President Donald Trump said Friday evening upon hearing about her death. "She was an amazing woman whether you agree or not she was an amazing woman who led an amazing life."

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden praised Ginsburg as a "giant in the legal profession" and a "beloved figure," saying in brief on-camera remarks Friday evening that people "should focus on the loss of the justice and her enduring legacy."

"But there is no doubt, let me be clear that the voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider," he added, saying that was the position of Republicans who refused to vote on then-President Barack Obama's nominee in 2016.

Obama, in a statement mourning Ginsburg, also called for Senate Republicans to uphold the standard they set in 2016 when they blocked his nominee.

"Over a long career on both sides of the bench -- as a relentless litigator and an incisive jurist -- Justice Ginsburg helped us see that discrimination on the basis of sex isn't about an abstract ideal of equality; that it doesn't only harm women; that it has real consequences for all of us. It's about who we are -- and who we can be," Obama said in a statement.

He added, "Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought to the end, through her cancer, with unwavering faith in our democracy and its ideals. That's how we remember her. But she also left instructions for how she wanted her legacy to be honored. Four and a half years ago, when Republicans refused to hold a hearing or an up-or-down vote on Merrick Garland, they invented the principle that the Senate shouldn't fill an open seat on the Supreme Court before a new president was sworn in.

A basic principle of the law -- and of everyday fairness -- is that we apply rules with consistency, and not based on what's convenient or advantageous in the moment."

Ginsburg developed a rock star status and was dubbed the "Notorious R.B.G." In speaking events across the country before liberal audiences, she was greeted with standing ovations as she spoke about her view of the law, her famed exercise routine and her often fiery dissents.

"Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature," said Chief Justice John Roberts. "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 tireless and resolute champion of justice."

Ginsburg, who died on the eve of the Jewish new year, was surrounded by her family at her home in Washington, DC, the court said. A private interment service will be held at Arlington National Cemetery.

Ginsburg had suffered from five bouts of cancer, most recently a recurrence in early 2020 when a biopsy revealed lesions on her liver. She had said that chemotherapy was yielding "positive results" and that she was able to maintain an active daily routine.

"I have often said I would remain a member of the Court as long as I can do the job full steam," she said in a statement in July 2020. "I remain fully able to do that."

She told an audience in 2019 that she liked to keep busy even when she was fighting cancer. "I found each time that when I'm active, I'm much better than if I'm just lying about and feeling sorry for myself," she said in New York at the Yale Club at an event hosted by Moment Magazine. Ginsburg told another audience that she thought she would serve until she was 90 years old.

Tiny in stature, she could write opinions that roared disapproval when she thought the majority had gone astray.

Before the election of President Donald Trump, Ginsburg told CNN that he "is a faker" and noted that he had "gotten away with not turning over his tax returns." She later said she regretted making the comments and Trump suggested she should recuse herself in cases concerning him. She never did.

In 2011, by contrast, President Barack Obama singled out Ginsburg at a White House ceremony. "She's one of my favorites," he said, "I've got a soft spot for Justice Ginsburg."

The vacancy gives Trump the opportunity to further solidify the conservative majority on the court and fill the seat of a woman who broke through the glass ceiling at a time when few women attended law school with a different justice who could steer the court to the right on social issues.

Ginsburg was well-known for the work she did before taking the bench, when she served as an advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union and became the architect of a legal strategy to bring cases to the courts that would ensure that the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection applied to gender.

"I had the good fortune to be alive and a lawyer in the late 1960s when, for the first time in the history of the United States, it became possible to urge before courts, successfully, that society would benefit enormously if women were regarded as persons equal in stature to men,'" she said in a commencement speech in 2002.

Once she took the bench, Ginsburg had the reputation of a "judge's judge" for the clarity of her opinions that gave straightforward guidance to the lower courts.

At the Supreme Court, she was perhaps best known for the opinion she wrote in United States v. Virginia, a decision that held that the all-male admissions policy at the state funded Virginia Military Institute was unconstitutional for its ban on women applicants.

"The constitutional violation in this case is the categorical exclusion of women from an extraordinary educational opportunity afforded men," she wrote in 1996.

Ginsburg faced discrimination herself when she graduated from law school in 1959 and could not find a clerkship.

No one was more surprised than Ginsburg of the status she gained with young women in her late 70s and early 80s. She was amused by the swag that appeared praising her work, including a "You Can't have the Truth, Without Ruth" T-shirt as well as coffee mugs and bobbleheads. Some young women went as far as getting tattoos bearing her likeness. A Tumblr dubbed her the "Notorious R.B.G." in reference to a rap star known as "Notorious B.I.G." The name stuck. One artist set Ginsburg's dissent in a religious liberty case to music.

"It makes absolute sense that Justice Ginsburg has become an idol for younger generations," Justice Elena Kagan said at an event at the New York Bar Association in 2014. "Her impact on America and American law has been extraordinary."

"As a litigator and then as a judge, she changed the face of American anti-discrimination law," Kagan said. "She can take credit for making the law of this country work for women and in doing so she made possible my own career."

Ginsburg, even after her fifth diagnosis of cancer, was working on a book with one of her former clerks, Amanda Tyler. It was based on her life on gender equality.

Read more: CNN

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