After almost three decades of serving on the Supreme Court, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away Sept. 18. Known as an advocate for human rights, some of Ginsburg’s most notable majority opinions were United States v. Virginia (1996), Ledbetter v. Goodyear (2007), and Olmstead v. L.C (1996), in addition to a number of famed dissenting opinions.
Ginsburg earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University in 1954, where she finished first in her class. She then enrolled at Harvard Law School, and became the first female member of Harvard Law Review. However, Ginsburg transferred to Columbia Law School in order to join her husband Martin Ginsburg in New York City, where he worked at a law firm. Ginsburg was elected to the school’s law review and once again graduated first in her class in 1959.
After graduation, Ginsburg was plagued by gender discrimination while seeking employment, despite her academic record. The unjust treatment she received in the workplace prompted her to become a pioneer for gender equality on the court.
During the 1970s, after becoming the first female tenured professor at Columbia University, Ginsburg served as the director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where she advocated for gender equality to the Supreme Court six times. President Bill Clinton nominated Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in 1993, and she was confirmed by the Senate in a 96-3 vote, becoming the second woman to serve on the Court.
Ginsburg was diagnosed with her first bout of cancer, a colon tumor, in 1999, and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a decade later. She endured five cancer diagnoses, earning her the nickname “Notorious R.B.G” for her resilience in advocating for human rights despite numerous health complications.
Ginsburg passed away at the age of 87 due to complications from a recurrence of pancreatic cancer.
A few days before her passing, Ginsburg’s granddaughter penned her final public statement: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
She died 46 days before the upcoming November 3rd election.
After the news of her passing broke, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that he would indeed move to confirm President Trump’s nomination for Ginsburg’s replacement, ignoring Ginsburg’s final wish.
This statement came with backlash, as in 2016, McConnell refused a Senate hearing for Judge Merrick Garland, nominated by former President Barack Obama nine months before the presidential election following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
In 2016, McConnell said, “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.”
Sept. 21, McConnell argued that the Senate should confirm President Donald Trump’s nominee because the White House and the Senate are currently controlled by the same party.
“Apart from that one strange exception, no Senate has failed to confirm a nominee in the circumstances that face us now,” McConnell said on the floor, referring to Justice Abe Fortas, who served during the 1960s but resigned over ethics issues. “The historical precedent is overwhelming and it runs in one direction. If our Democratic colleagues want to claim they are outraged, they can only be outraged at the plain facts of American history.”
Trying to flip the narrative so drastically, with no reasoning other than the fact that it benefits conservatives, is a horrendous act of hypocrisy. As democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden pointed out in Tuesday’s presidential debate, the election is well under way, with tens of thousands of Americans having already voted.
President Donald Trump shot back, claiming that democrats would have done the same thing in his position, a hypothetical scenario that is not logically sound by any means.
“I was elected for four years, not three,” Trump pointed out, claiming that democrats tried to do the same thing back in 2016.
But the situation is very different. Garland was nominated nine months, not one month, before the election. The end of President Trump’s term is a mere 112 days away. The election is already underway.
Just 38 days before the election, Trump announced his nomination to replace Ginsburg, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a former professor at Notre Dame University, and current judge on a Chicago federal appeals court.
Judge Barrett previously clerked for the late Justice Scalia, citing their ideological similarities. If confirmed, she would become the youngest Supreme Court Justice in history at the age of 48, as well as tipping the balance of the court 6-3.
“Should I be confirmed, I will be mindful of who came before me,” Judge Barrett said of Justice Ginsburg.“She not only broke glass ceilings, but she also smashed them, and for that, she has won the admiration of women across the country.”
Judge Barrett is a favorite of anti-abortion activists, joining dissents concerning Indiana laws on abortion. For example, in Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc. Barrett argued in favor of a law that would have required doctors to notify the parents of a minor seeking an abortion. This law did not include a judicial bypass provision, which is an exception to the parent-notifying procedure with the permission of a judge.
Judge Barrett is also known for her staunch position on gun rights, as well as writing a dissent in June saying she would have overturned a trial court ruling which blocked the Trump administration’s tightening of the “public charge” rule, a policy which allows officials to deny green cards to immigrants who are in need of heavy welfare.
More Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump in the 2016 election. In the 2018 Senate elections, the Democrats won the combined vote by 20 percentage points. If Trump’s appointment is approved, Americans will be living under a court that was appointed by minority rule.
Confirmation hearings are slated to begin Oct. 12, only 22 days before the election. If the American people can’t trust their leaders to keep their word, how will the legitimacy of the court stay intact? How can we trust the court to observe the law with an unbiased perspective if the court becomes a partisan playground? The American people must demand that a new justice is not appointed to the Supreme Court until the presidential election is decided.