The Supreme Court honors the legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
WASHINGTON (AP) — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose death before the 2020 election prompted a Conservative relocation of the Supreme Court, was remembered as a legendary advocate for women’s rights during Supreme Court ceremonies on Friday.
Just two days after the judge’s 90th birthday, Chief Justice John Roberts called her a “woman of conviction, courage and quiet compassion.”
“She is short in stature but stands as a giant in the history of this court,” Roberts said during a solemn session of the court attended by its nine current members, as well as former Justices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer.
Ginsburg’s death just over six weeks before the 2020 election was momentous. It allowed then-President Donald Trump to fill the court’s liberal justice seat with a conservative, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, and gave the conservatives a 6-3 majority on the bench. Barrett was among the judges who voted last year to have Roe v. to overthrow Wade and abolish the constitutional protections of abortion, the protections Ginsburg had supported as a judge.
Ginsburg served 27 years as a judge and was the second female member of the Supreme Court, but as a women’s rights advocate, she had “already used the law as an attorney to profoundly change our country for the better before she became a member of this court ‘ said the Chief Justice.
During courtroom ceremonies, Attorney General Merrick Garland called Ginsburg the “key tactician in the campaign for women’s equality.” He noted that beginning in 1971, she filed more than 20 briefs in the Supreme Court related to women’s rights. She argued six cases in court and won five. It was a time when there were few women lawyers and even fewer women arguing in the highest courts.
Garland recalled being a Supreme Court clerk, a young attorney who worked for a judiciary for a year, when Ginsburg argued. Staff have been told by their judges that throughout the year she was “the best attorney we’ve heard,” he said, and “she did not disappoint.”
“Justice Ginsburg was brilliant, courageous and principled. She firmly believed in the law’s ability to fulfill our country’s fundamental promise of equality,” Garland said.
Ginsburg was also reminded of Friday by some of the men and women who were her legal employees. These included the Biden administration’s attorney general, Elizabeth Prelogar, the chief justice of the administration’s Supreme Court, as well as several judges and professors.
“She was a visionary as an advocate for equal citizenship for all people and as a judge who fought every day to fulfill the promise of this nation,” Prelogar said.
Other legal clerks recalled her passion for operas, to which she took them, and how she edited her work, printing out copies with triple spaces between lines and hand-editing with red pencil, sometimes cutting out lines and pasting them elsewhere when she wanted to move things. She had an obligation, in her words, “to get it right and hold on to it,” Garland said.
The High Court ceremonies, technically a session of the Supreme Court Bar Association followed by a special session of the Court, are a High Court tradition following the death of a judge, a tradition dating back to 1822.
Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Her appointment followed more than a decade that of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the court’s first female judge. Ginsburg said at her confirmation hearing, “I expect to see three, four, maybe even more women on the Supreme Court bench in my lifetime.” Ginsburg eventually served with two other women: Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan . Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson joined the court last year, giving the court four women for the first time.
Speakers particularly recalled Ginsburg’s 1996 majority opinion, in which the court ruled that the then-male-only Virginia Military Institute must be opened to women. They also recalled their 2013 dissent in a case in which the court cut off a key portion of federal law guaranteeing the right to vote for Blacks, Hispanics and other minorities, saying it’s “like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you it’s not getting wet.”
Late in life as a senior court Liberal, Ginsburg became something of an icon, especially for young women, earning the nickname “Notorious RBG.” Among the things she was known for was her collection of judicial collars, lace, and beaded embellishments that she wore over her robes. She was also an avid exercise advocate and regularly worked out with a personal trainer, who wrote a book about her exercise routine that came out in 2017.
Over the years, Ginsburg has had several public battles with cancer. She died at the age of 87 from complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer. After her death, she made history as the first woman to lie in state at the US Capitol.
Ginsburg is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington.
Jessica Gresko, The Associated Press