On Friday, long-seated Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 87 years old and had served on the highest court in the United States of America for 27 years.
Justice Ginsburg was the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). The first was Sandra Day O’Connor. O’Connor was nominated by Republican President Ronald Reagan and was seated in 1981. She retired in 2005, and her seat was filled by current Justice Samuel Alito. O’Connor is 90 years old today.
Justice Ginsburg was nominated to her seat by Democratic President Bill Clinton. She is remembered as a fierce advocate for women’s rights, having worked her way up through the legal profession at a time when women were not well-represented among and sometimes disallowed from key positions in law offices and the courts. She called herself a “feminist,” and her rulings support that description. She typically took politically liberal positions on other legal issues as well.
She also took her lifelong appointment to the SCOTUS seriously. Prior to 2019, Justice Ginsburg never missed a day of oral arguments in court. She came to work even during multiple rounds of cancer treatments and following her husband’s death. As she aged, some Democrats asked her to retire while Barack Obama was president. That would have allowed President Obama to nominate another justice with similar political views. But Justice Ginsburg refused. She chose to remain in her seat until her death.
Despite her liberal views, Justice Ginsburg enjoyed friendship with even the most conservative justices on the SCOTUS. She and the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia were known for being close friends who often disagreed sharply on issues and how the Constitution should be interpreted and applied.
The vacancy left on the court now gives an opportunity for President Donald Trump to make a third Supreme Court nomination before the November election. His previous confirmed nominees are the current justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. A Supreme Court nominee must be confirmed by Congress in order to be seated. Some members of Congress do not believe a president should be allowed to make a nomination to a lifelong position in an election year. But many others see the timing as essential to an overall political strategy.
(Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2018. The second woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States has passed away at age 87. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)