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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at age 87

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at age 87

FILE PHOTO: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg attends the lunch session of The Women's Conference in Long Beach, California October 26, 2010. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo

WASHINGTON: US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died aged 87, the court said in a statement on Friday (Sep 18).

She died of metastatic pancreatic cancer at her home in Washington, DC, surrounded by her family, the statement said.

"Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature," Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement. 

"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."

President Donald Trump, informed by reporters after a rally about the death of Ginsburg, said: "She was an amazing woman."

"She led an amazing life," Trump said.

In brief remarks to reporters before boarding the Air Force One following the Minnesota rally, Trump did not mention any potential plans to nominate a replacement. 

Ginsburg was first admitted to hospital in July for a suspected infection when she underwent an endoscopic procedure "to clean out a bile duct stent that was placed last August," the Supreme Court said then.

READ: US Supreme Court justice Ginsburg, 87, hospitalised

She was hospitalised again at the end of July to undergo another "minimally invasive" procedure in New York.

Ginsburg, known by supporters as RBG, had also been hospitalised in May. She was also hospitalised several times in 2019 and 2018.

She had experienced a series of health issues including bouts with pancreatic cancer in 2019 and lung cancer in 2018, a previous bout with pancreatic cancer in 2009 and colon cancer in 1999. She disclosed on July 17, 2020, that she had a recurrence of cancer.


Ginsburg, who rose from a working class upbringing in New York City's borough of Brooklyn and prevailed over systematic sexism in the legal ranks to become one of America's best-known jurists, was appointed to the Supreme Court by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1993. She provided key votes in landmark rulings securing equal rights for women, expanding gay rights and safeguarding abortion rights.

Ginsburg was the oldest member of the court and the second-longest serving among its current justices behind Clarence Thomas. She was the second woman ever named to the court, after Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was appointed 12 years earlier.​​​​​​​

Ginsburg was a stalwart liberal on the US Supreme Court since 1993, the court said, giving President Donald Trump a chance to expand its conservative majority with a third appointment at a time of deep divisions in America with a presidential election looming.

Trump, seeking re-election on Nov 3, already has appointed two conservatives to lifetime posts on the court, Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. Supreme Court appointments require Senate confirmation, and Trump's fellow Republicans control the chamber.

READ: Commentary: Trump will get beaten by Biden by millions of votes but plans to win anyway

Supreme Court justices, who receive lifetime appointments, play an enormous role in shaping US policies on hot-button issues like abortion, LGBT rights, gun rights, religious liberty, the death penalty and presidential powers. 

For example, the court in 1973 legalized abortion nationwide - a decision that some conservatives are eager to overturn - and in 2015 allowed same-sex marriage across the United States.

Ginsburg was a champion of women's rights who became an icon for American liberals. Her departure could dramatically alter the ideological balance of the court, which currently has a 5-4 conservative majority, by moving it further to the right. 


The expected Senate confirmation battle over a Trump nominee to replace Ginsburg is likely to be fierce - at a time of social unrest in the United States during the coronavirus pandemic - though Democrats lack the votes to block him unless some Republican senators join them.

Trump on Sep 9 unveiled a list of potential nominees to fill any future Supreme Court vacancies in a move aimed at bolstering support among conservative voters.

One of the first fights will be whether the Senate should confirm a new justice until election, less than two months away, is decided.

National Public Radio reported on Friday that Ginsburg before her death dictated a statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera, saying, "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."

When conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to allow the Senate to consider Democratic President Barack Obama's nominee to fill the vacancy, Merrick Garland, in an action with little precedent in U.S. history. While McConnell in 2016 said a Supreme Court nomination should not be taken up during an election year, in 2019 he made clear that the Senate would allow Trump, a fellow Republican, to fill an election-year vacancy, drawing Democratic accusations of hypocrisy.

READ: Commentary: US presidential election will be closer than polls suggest

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the vacancy in the Supreme Court should not be filled until there is a new president.

"The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president," he said on Twitter.


Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, who would preside over confirmation hearings of her successor on the court, called Ginsburg "a trailblazer who possessed tremendous passion for her causes."

Trump, who as a presidential candidate in 2016 called on Ginsburg to resign after she criticized him in media interviews, will get a chance to reshape the court like no other president since Ronald Reagan, who made three appointments during his eight years in office in the 1980s, moving the court to the right.

Trump and McConnell have made moving the federal judiciary to the right a top priority. Another Trump appointment would give the Supreme Court a 6-3 conservative majority, meaning that for the liberal justices to prevail in any case they would need to have two of the conservatives join them.

Some liberal activists had urged Ginsburg to step down early in Obama's second term to allow him to appoint a younger liberal to replace her who could serve decades on the court.

Even with a conservative majority on the court, Trump came out on the losing end of several key rulings in June and July 2020, including decisions rejecting his claim of absolute presidential immunity from criminal investigation. With Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts playing a key role, the court also ruled against Trump in expanding LGBT rights, invalidating a restrictive Louisiana abortion law and blocking him from rescinding an immigration program created by Obama.

READ: US Supreme Court rebuffs Trump's immunity claim, lets prosecutor get financial records

During the 2016 campaign, Trump promised to appoint justices who would overturn the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion nationwide.

It would take about a month for Trump and Senate Republicans to pick and confirm a replacement, said Daniel Epps, a law professor and former Supreme Court clerk.

"I would be surprised if the president and Senate Republicans don't try to fill the seat," said Epps, of Washington University School of Law. "They probably have the votes."

Trump will likely replace Ginsburg with another woman, Epps, said, and might use the opportunity to rally his base of social conservatives.

A private interment service will be held at Arlington National Cemetery, the court said, but did not specify a date.

Source: Reuters/nh(ta)


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