Washington September 19: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal and legal icon, died on Friday at the age of 87 from complications caused by metastatic pancreatic cancer. Democrats and Republicans reacted to news of her death with grief even as they drew battle lines over the possibility of finding a replacement justice before the elections.
At just over 5 feet tall, Ginsburg was considered a giant in the legal world, The Hindu reported. As a lawyer she argued cases before the Supreme Court to expand, in stages, the ambit of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment on equal protection to cover gender discrimination.
Born in 1933 to a Jewish family in Brooklyn, she faced numerous challenges as she worked her way to the highest court in the land. She lost her mother at 17, entered an almost exclusively male world of lawyers and judges, helped her husband Martin (“Marty”) Ginsburg through cancer while they both attended Harvard Law School and raised children.
Her marriage to Ginsburg- who campaigned for his wife’s supreme court nomination and took on work at home traditionally expected of women – would become one of the defining partnerships of her life.
Ginsburg was the first tenured professor at Columbia Law School before she was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals as a judge. In 1993, then U.S. President Bill Clinton appointed her to the Supreme Court – the second woman in that position. At the time of her death she would become the oldest Supreme Court justice and the most senior of the liberal justices. In her 27 years on the court, in writing majority opinions and dissents she became a liberal icon through her support for gender equality, women’s rights, same sex marriage, strengthening the Voting Rights Act and so forth.
Ginsburg reputation for toughness extended outside the court. She had off cancer twice in her life. Treatment for a fall that broke three of her ribs in 2018 led doctors to discover that she had cancer, for the third time.
She had repeatedly said she would work as long as she could physically manage: the 5-4 conservative-liberal split in the court, with Chief Justice John Roberts sometimes voting with liberals, would become even more conservative had Ms. Ginsburg retired. Just days before her death, Ginsburg said she hoped a replacement would not be found before the presidential elections.
“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” she had said in a dictated statement to her grand-daughter Clara Spera.
The stature of the justice extended from feminism and law as Ginsburg, in recent years, become an icon in popular culture. Known colloquially as the “Notorious RBG” ( named after the late rapper Notorious BIG) mugs, action figures, stickers, t-shirts and books, including one by her personal trainer on the “RBG Workout” featuring Ginsburg started emerging. The Justice was known to have a tough workout regimen even in her eighties that included lifting weights and doing push ups.
In the hours after news of her death broke, mourners gathered outside the Supreme Court of the United States here in Washington, brining candles and flowers to mark Justice Ginsburg’s life and passing.
U.S. President Donald Trump appeared to be taken aback when he was told of the news by reporters after a campaign event in Minnesota. “She just died? Wow,” he said. “She led an amazing life…what else can you say. She was an amazing woman…whether you agreed or not, she was amazing woman who led an amazing life. I’m actually sad to hear that.” He later issued a statement praising her. In 2016, Justice Ginsburg had called Trump “a faker”, words she later apologised for saying judges should refrain from commenting on candidates running for office.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called Ginsburg “not only a giant in the legal profession but a beloved figure.” Biden said the short term focus was on the loss of the justice and her 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.”