United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died of complications of pancreatic cancer on Friday, Politico reported. She was 87.
Ginsburg, a feminist icon, was only the second woman justice of the US Supreme Court. Ginsburg had been undergoing chemotherapy for lesions on her liver since July, the last of her several battles with cancer.
Chief Justice John Roberts was among those who mourned Ginsburg’s death. “Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature,” Roberts said, according to AP. “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.”
Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court by former President Bill Clinton in 1993. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg does not need a seat on the Supreme Court to earn her place in the American history books,” Clinton had said at the time of her appointment. “She has already done that.” On Friday, Clinton mourned her death, saying, “Her 27 years on the court exceeded even my highest expectations when I appointed her. 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.’”
Ginsburg had, as a lawyer, argued five cases before the court in the 1970s when she was an architect of the women’s rights movement, and won five. As a judge, her most important majority opinions were a 1996 ruling that ordered the Virginia Military Institute to accept women or give up its state funding, and the 2015 decision that upheld independent commissions some states use to draw congressional districts.
Ginsberg’s death makes it possible for President Donald Trump to fill a third vacancy on the court and cement its conservative majority. The Trump administration has lost a series of cases in the last four years by a margin of 5 to 4, with Roberts throwing his weight behind the liberal justices. This is true even though Trump has himself appointed two judges to the top court.
Ginsburg’s death just six weeks before the US presidential elections is likely to begin a debate about whether Trump should nominate, and the Republican-led Senate should confirm, her replacement, or the seat should remain vacant until the election results are in.
“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” Ginsburg had said earlier this year, according to a statement issued by her granddaughter Clara Spera.
Ginsburg had caused a controversy by attacking presidential candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 election campaign, leading to the observation that judges should not get involved in partisan politics. She had later apologised.