UPDATE – SEPT. 20, 2020 6PM:
President Trump released a statement on Saturday, Sept. 19, signaling his intention to fill Ginsburg’s vacancy. “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,” said Trump in his statement from Twitter. “We have this obligation, without delay!”
On Friday, Sept. 18, the Supreme Court announced to the public that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away. She died at age 87 due to complications from pancreatic cancer.
“Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died this evening surrounded by her family at her home in Washington, D.C., due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer,” said the Supreme Court in a statement.
A lifelong champion in the fight for gender equality, Ginsburg’s most extraordinary accomplishments came during her tenure as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
“Her landmark opinions advancing gender equality, marriage equality, the rights of people with disabilities, the rights of immigrants, and so many more moved us closer to ‘a more perfect union,'” Former President Bill Clinton said. “Her powerful dissents, especially her ringing defense of voting rights and other equal protection claims, reminded us that we walk away from our Constitution’s promise at our peril. And she did it all with kindness, grace, and calm, treating even her strongest adversaries with respect.”
Before serving as a Supreme Court Associate Justice, Ginsburg also served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Appointed by Former President Jimmy Carter, Carter commemorated her as a “beacon of justice”.
“I was proud to have appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1980,” said Carter in a statement. “We join countless Americans in mourning the loss of a truly great woman. We will keep her family in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
During her early career, Ginsburg also heavily advocated for gender equality and women’s rights. As a professor of law at Rutgers University, she co-founded the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, which focused exclusively on women’s rights. Later, she would also teach at Columbia as the first tenured woman, and co-found a project at the ACLU dedicated to litigating for women’s rights.
“Ginsburg was a trailblazer in many ways: for women’s equality, voting rights, and so much more,” said Joshua A. Douglas, a law professor at the Rosenberg College of Law, where Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell received his law degree. “Her passing leaves an amazing legacy. But it also unfortunately occurred with only 46 days until Election Day, when the politics of the moment could not be more vitriolic.”
Hypocrisy in the Senate
Shortly after her death, McConnell released a statement, pledging that the Senate would vote to replace Ginsburg’s seat as soon as possible with President Trump’s own judicial nominee. This starkly contradicts McConnell’s own protest in 2016, when the Senate majority leader objected to former President Obama’s nominee in the last few months of President Obama’s second term.
“[A]mericans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2017 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise,” said McConnell. “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
In contrast, days before her death, Ginsburg reportedly told her granddaughter that her “most fervent wish was not to be replaced until a new president [was] installed”. Former President Obama also agreed with this statement, referring back to it in his tribute to Ginsburg, along with his mentioning of McConnell’s own opposition of his nominee back in 2016.
“Four and a half years ago, when Republicans refused to hold a hearing or an up-or-down vote on Merrick Garland, they invented the principle that the Senate shouldn’t fill an open seat on the Supreme Court before a new president was sworn in,” said Obama. “A basic principle of the law — and of everyday fairness — is that we apply rules with consistency, and not based on what’s convenient or advantageous in the moment.”
President Trump, at the moment, has only released a statement celebrating the late Justice, with no details released on what his plans are for the vacancy.
“A fighter to the end, Justice Ginsburg battled cancer, and other very long odds, throughout her remarkable life,” said Trump. “May her memory be a great and magnificent blessing to the world.”