Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves a solid legacy but a shaky Supreme Court

By Annie Burky

Sep 19, 2020 | News | 0 comments

//Ruth Bader Ginsberg photographed by Lynn Gilbert in 1977.

On Sept. 18 Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died at the age of 87 from complications due to metastatic pancreas cancer. Her lauded career was marked by historic cases, many in the name of gender equality. 

Even before her placement on the Supreme Court, she fought for gender equality through cases such as Frontiero v. Richardson, ensuring Americans’ freedom from workplace discrimination based on gender and race. Throughout her time on the court, she helped shape law regarding immigration, abortion, health care, same-sex marriage, affirmative action and voting rights. 

Ginsberg earned the nickname “Notorious RBG” along with status as a pop culture icon with the 2013 song and music video of the same name. The song triggered a revisiting of her life’s work through film and media, making Ginsburg beloved by younger generations in a fashion that is exceedingly rare for members of the court. 

Ginsberg’s passing leaves the highest court in the land with an open seat, one that would decide the balance of the court. Before her passing the court was right-leaning 5-4 with Chief Justice John Roberts’ voting record leaving him near center. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that he fully intends on filling Ginsberg’s seat before the already extremely contentious November presidential election. 

An hour after Ginsberg’s passing, McConnell released a statement extolling Ginsberg’s monumental career. The statement went on to express McConnel’s intentions to go against the over 100-year tradition of not filling a Supreme Court seat in an election year. 

In the last midterm election before Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president’s second term. We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year.

By contrast, Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise.

President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.

According to the court’s website, the President must first nominate a candidate, a list that was previously vetted as Ginsberg’s health continued to decline. The Senate is then required to confirm the nominee with a simple majority, as opposed to a two-thirds majority. Before the Senate votes on the candidate, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a multi-day hearing to more thoroughly vet the candidate. It is to be noted that Senate Republicans currently hold an eight-seat majority over Democrats with two independents holding seats as well. 

The most recent appointee to the court is Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whose confirmation hearing revealed divisive testimony. In a widely viewed hearing, Christine Blasey Ford, a former high-school classmate of Kavanaugh’s, accused him of attempted sexual assault. Despite the accusation, Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate. Most have attributed this appointment to setting off a “blue wave” that returned the House of Representatives to Democrats, along with an unprecedented number of female candidates elected to office. 

Whoever is appointed may be responsible for arbitrating upcoming cases concerning the death penalty, First Amendment rights and criminal proceedings. 

However, other issues could be on the horizon for the court including abortion rights. While the right to receive an abortion was granted in 1973 with Roe v. Wade, it could be overturned with a future case. While Ginsberg was not appointed to the Court until 1993, and therefore did not adjudicate on the case, she advocated widely for a woman’s right to choose. During her Supreme Court nomination hearing, she spoke openly about the controversial topic. 

“It is essential to woman’s equality with man that she be the decisionmaker, that her choice be controlling,” Ginsburg said. “If you impose restraints that impede her choice, you are disadvantaging her because of her sex.” 

Ginsberg died in her Washington D.C. house surrounded by her family. Members of her family shared her ‘fervent’ last wish that she ‘not be replaced until a new president is installed.’


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