US Supreme Court judge and women’s rights champion Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies

US Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died at 87 due to complications from pancreatic cancer.

Justice Ginsburg died at her home in Washington DC surrounded by her family.

She was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and was a champion of women’s rights who became an icon for American liberals.

Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2009
Image:Justice Ginsburg had sat on the Supreme Court since 1993

Young women particularly seemed to embrace the judge, affectionately referring to her as the Notorious RBG.

Hailing from a working-class family in Brooklyn, Justice Ginsburg won major gender discrimination cases before she was appointed to the Supreme Court.

She was only the second woman in history to sit on the highest court in the country, providing key votes in landmark rulings securing equal rights for women, expanding gay rights and safeguarding abortion rights.

Justice Ginsburg once said that despite graduating at the top of her Columbia University law school class, she struggled to find a law firm willing to hire her because she had “three strikes against her” – for being Jewish, female and a mother.

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The 87-year-old announced in July that she was undergoing chemotherapy for lesions on her liver, after suffering five bouts of cancer beginning in 1999.

Responding to her death, US President Donald Trump said she was an “amazing woman” and he was sad to hear she had died.

Former US president George Bush described her as a “smart and humourous trailblazer”, saying he was “fortunate” to have known her.

Portrait of Ruth Ginsburg in 1977
Image:She was only the second woman to be appointed a member of the Supreme Court
Crowds gather outside the Supreme Court to pay tribute
Image:Crowds gather outside the Supreme Court to pay tribute

Hillary Clinton said she had “paved the way for so many women, including me”.

“There will never be another like her,” she added.

Chief Justice John G Roberts Jr was also among the first to pay tribute, saying: “Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature.

“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.”

Nodding to her popularity across political lines, Donald Trump’s son Eric wrote on Twitter: “Justice Ginsburg was a remarkable woman with an astonishing work ethic. She was a warrior with true conviction and she has my absolute respect! #RIP.”

She was a household name in the US and numerous celebrities have paid tribute, including Hollywood actress Brie Larson, who said: “Thank you, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We’ll keep pushing our way into all the places we’ve yet to be invited.”

A man kneels at a vigil for Justice Ginsburg
Image:A man kneels at a vigil for Justice Ginsburg
People light candles in front of the US Supreme Court
Image:People light candles in front of the US Supreme Court

Writer and actress Mindy Kaling wrote: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the kind of scholar and patriot you get excited about explaining to your kids.

“The kind of person who you say ‘who knows, one day you could be HER’. I hope you rest well, RBG, you must have been tired from changing the world.”

Justice Ginsburg’s death just over six weeks before the US election will have profound consequences and is likely to set off a heated battle over who should choose her replacement in the conservative-majority court.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg greets US President Barack Obama prior to delivering his first State of the Union address
Image:Justice Ginsburg greets then-US president Barack Obama prior to delivering his first State of the Union address

President Donald Trump will likely try to push a successor through the Republican-controlled Senate, moving the court even more to the right.

Mr Trump is likely to put forth a nominee in the coming days, according to ABC News, and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has said the Senate will vote on the president’s pick.

But Democrats argue the seat should remain vacant until the outcome of the election is known.

Presidential hopeful Joe Biden, who described Justice Ginsburg as an “American hero”, pointed to the Republican Senate’s decision in 2016 not to appoint a successor to Justice Antonin Scalia until that year’s election.

“Just so there is no doubt, let me be clear: the voters should pick a president, and that president should select a successor to Justice Ginsburg,” he said.

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In a statement dictated to her daughter days before her death, Justice Ginsburg said her “most fervent wish” was not to be replaced until a new president is installed, according to non-profit media organisation NPR.

She was married to prominent tax lawyer Martin Ginsburg, who died in 2010, and is survived by two children, Jane and James.

A private funeral ceremony will be held at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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