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Home / World News / Ruth Bader Ginsburg, liberal jurist and American feminist icon, dies

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, liberal jurist and American feminist icon, dies

When court was in session, she often had her head down, sometimes leading visitors to think she was asleep. She once acknowledged that she did occasionally nod off.

world Updated: Sep 20, 2020, 05:36 IST
Washington
Ginsburg, affectionately known as the Notorious RBG, died on Friday of complications from pancreatic cancer in Washington at 87.
Ginsburg, affectionately known as the Notorious RBG, died on Friday of complications from pancreatic cancer in Washington at 87.(Reuters file photo)

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg moved slowly.

When court was in session, she often had her head down, sometimes leading visitors to think she was asleep. She once acknowledged that she did occasionally nod off. But it was a mistake to equate her gait and gaze with frailty, for Ginsburg showed over and over a steely resilience in the face of personal loss and health problems that made the diminutive New Yorker a towering women’s rights champion and forceful presence at the court over 27 years.

Ginsburg, affectionately known as the Notorious RBG, died on Friday of complications from pancreatic cancer in Washington at 87.

But even as large crowds of mourners gathered outside the Supreme Court to pay tribute to the liberal jurist, battle lines were forming. Her death has added new weight to the November 3 election, potentially giving President Trump a chance to expand the court’s conservative majority to 6-3 at a time of a gaping political divide in America.

Supreme Court appointments require Senate confirmation, and Trump’s fellow Republicans control the chamber, holding 53 seats of the 100 seats. Democrats lack the votes to block any Trump nominee unless some Republican senators join them.

Early on Saturday, Trump urged the Republican-run Senate to consider “without delay” his upcoming nomination to fill the Supreme Court seat. 

“We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!” he wrote in a tweet.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said any vote should come after the election. “Voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice to consider,” Biden said. The impending clash over the vacant seat — when to fill it and with whom — is sure to significantly affect the stretch run of the presidential race, further stirring passions in a nation already reeling from the pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 people, left millions unemployed and heightened partisan tensions and anger.

For liberals who considered Ginsburg a heroine, the grief they have expressed over her death was tinged with fear over what happens next.

Conservative activists for years have sought to get enough votes on the Supreme Court to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalised abortion nationwide. During the 2016 campaign, Trump promised to appoint justices who would overturn that landmark decision.

In her final years on the court, Ginsburg was the unquestioned leader of the liberal justices, as outspoken in dissent as she was cautious in earlier years.

Ginsburg was outspoken in her condemnations of President Trump, a man she criticised for his “ego” and whose impact on the court she said she did not “even want to contemplate”.

Just a few days before her death, Ginsburg dictated the statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” US media reported.

In 2019, doctors treated Ginsburg with radiation for a tumour on her pancreas. She maintained an active schedule even during the three weeks of radiation. When she revealed a recurrence of her cancer in July 2020, this time with lesions on her liver that were treated with chemotherapy every two weeks, Ginsburg said she remained “fully able” to continue as a justice.

Her determination was perhaps most evident on the day the court met for the final time in June 2010. Her husband had died a day earlier, and her children told her their father would want her to go to work. The justices filed into the courtroom that Monday, and Ginsburg was there.

ht epaper

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