Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg Dies at 87
Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in her home in the nation’s capital, on Friday, six weeks from the November presidential election.
When the Supreme Court announced Justice Ginsburg’s death, Chief Justice John Roberts said, “Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature. We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with the confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her — a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”
According to the Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1933. Before being appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993, Justice Ginsburg served as the General Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union from 1973 to 1980, and then as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She taught law at Rutgers University School of Law from 1963 to 1972, and then at Columbia Law School, where she was the first tenured female professor, until 1980. Justice Ginsburg was the second woman, after Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, to take a seat on the Supreme Court.
During Justice Ginsburg’s time with the American Civil Liberties Union, she began “the work that would define her career,” according to Smithsonian Magazine. In the five years between 1973 and 1978, Justice Ginsburg argued six cases about gender discrimination in front of the Supreme Court and won five.
In 1996, Ginsburg authored the majority opinion for United States v. Virginia, with the court ruling against the Virginia Military Institute’s male-only admissions policy 7 to 1.
“The state had argued that women would not be able to meet the physical demands of the institute. Ginsburg agreed that women would not; however, she argued that those who could meet the physical qualifications should be allowed entry to the prestigious institution,” Smithsonian Magazine wrote.
According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Justice Ginsburg died due to complications related to pancreatic cancer. She was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2009.
“Justice Ginsburg had numerous bouts with cancer, including colon cancer in 1999 and, in late 2018, cancerous nodules were removed from her left lung,” the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network said the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network said. “Over the past 11 years, as a long-term pancreatic cancer survivor, she gave hope to many patients facing the disease. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is determined to continue fighting for progress for patients so that more people have a chance at longer survival.”
Controversy arises over Justice Ginsburg’s replacement
On Saturday, in the hours following Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, controversy and speculation swelled on the internet over how the vacancy on the Supreme Court would be filled. On Twitter, topics related to the Supreme Court and Senate Republicans — whose role it is to approve the president’s nominations to the Supreme Court — were trending, with more than five million tweets.
On Instagram, a video posted, with close to 30 thousand views, of Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina resurfaced from a Senate Judiciary Committee Business Meeting on March 10, 2016, when Senate leaders were discussing President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in the last year of his presidency.
In the video, Sen. Graham said, “If Ted Cruz or Donald Trump gets to be president, they have all asked us not to confirm or take up a selection by President Obama. So, if a vacancy occurs in their last year of their first term, guess what? You will use their words against them. I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of their first term, you can say ‘Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.’ You can use my words against me.”
In 2016, the Republican-controlled Senate did not approve of President Obama’s Supreme Court justice nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, and, later, allowed President Donald Trump’s nominee, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, to take his seat on the Supreme Court in 2018.
On Twitter, in a video posted by Yahoo news in October of 2019 — now with over three million views, Sen. Graham discussed his handling of President Obama’s Supreme Court justice nomination in the final year of his presidency.
“Justice Scalia died in 2016, the primary process is ongoing, and if you look back at 100 years, nobody has been replaced under that circumstance. If you listen to what Joe Biden said [during George H.W. Bush’s presidency], you should hold it over until the next election,” Sen. Graham said in the video. “Joe is right a lot, so I felt like I was doing the traditional thing there. If an opening comes in the last year of Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait ‘til the next election.”
When reminded in the video that he was on the record, Sen. Graham replied, “Yeah. Hold the tape.”
However, in a tweet on Saturday, Sen. Graham said that he will “support [Trump] in any effort to move forward regarding the recent vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg.”
His reasoning for the change of heart was because former Nevada senator Harry Reid “changed the rules,” and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, “and his friends in the liberal media conspired to destroy the life of Brett Kavanaugh and hold that Supreme Court seat open.”
A video from 2016, posted by The Hill, of Senator Thomas Tillis of North Carolina, resurfaced on Twitter on Saturday. In the video, Sen. Tillis spoke about President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court during his last year in office. He was one of the Republican senators who advocated for waiting until after the next president had been elected to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.
Sen. Tillis said, “You all may have heard that we have a Supreme Court nomination opening. I happen to be one of the senators who signed on to the letter to tell this president that we’re not going to [approve] a Supreme Court justice until the people have spoken … we’ve advised the president that we’re not going to consent to one of his nominees, we’re going to let the American people speak.”
According to a Saturday morning headline by the Associated Press, Trump said that Senate republicans have an “obligation” to move forward with his nomination to fill the vacancy left by Justice Ginsburg on the Supreme Court “without delay.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, is in control of the Senate’s calendar, and makes decisions on when to vote on the president’s nominations to the Supreme Court. According to an article from the Associated Press, McConnell promised to schedule a vote in the Senate on Trump’s justice nomination, hours after Justice Ginsburg’s death on Friday night.
Sen. McConnell’s promise to vote on the latest Supreme Court vacancy is “in stark contrast to the position he took in 2016, when he refused to consider President Barack Obama’s choice for the high court months ahead of the election,” AP reported. “McConnell blocked hearings for Merrick Garland, a federal appeals court judge, saying the choice should be left to the voters in an election year.”
One Republican senator, however, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who voted in favor of Trump’s 2018 Supreme Court nominee, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, said that appointing a new justice to the supreme court would be unfair to the American people.
In a statement on Twitter, Sen. Collins said that, given the proximity of the upcoming election, “I do not believe that the Senate should vote on the nominee prior to the election. In fairness to the American people, who will either be re-electing the president or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the President who is elected on November 3.”