Ruth Bader Ginsburg, supreme court justice, dies aged 87

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, supreme court justice, dies aged 87

08:11

This blog is closing now but thanks for reading.

This our main story and you can also read about the politcal battles ahead here:

07:59

Summary

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal stalwart on the US supreme court for 27 years, has died at the age of 87. Her passing will set the stage for a bitter battle over how her vacant should be filled and who will fill it. Democrats led by former president Barack Obama have said Republicans must abide by the precedent they set in 2016 by refusing to allow him to nominate a justice beause it was an election year.

Here are of some of the key developments:

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the supreme court, has died in Washington, from complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer. She was 87.
  • Trump will nominate a replacement for Ginsburg, and the Republican-controlled senate has the power to confirm that nominee to the supreme court.
  • But Republicans have only a slight voting majority, raising questions about whether they have the votes to push through a controversial nominee just weeks before a presidential election. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz suggested they should move fast. Potential Senate swing votes, like Susan Collins and Mitt Romney, will face immense pressure as Republicans count their potential votes.
  • Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell released a statement saying that Trump’s nominee would get a vote in the Senate, but did not say exactly when. McConnell did make clear that he would ignore his own argument from 2016, when he suggested that confirming a president’s supreme court nominee months before a presidential election was inappropriate.
  • Joe Biden, Obama and Hillary Clinton led calls for the process to be delayed until after the election.
  • Ginsburg made her own position clear, telling her granddaughter this week: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
  • Read our obituary of Ginsburg here

Updated

07:40

Hundreds of people gathered on the steps of the US supreme court in Washington to pay tribute to Ginsburg.

A little before midnight, a woman sang the mourners’ Kaddish, a traditional Jewish prayer for the dead, on the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish New Year, Reuters reports.

Tributes at the supreme court.

Tributes at the supreme court. Photograph: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

One of the crowd, Dominik Radawski, said: “It just feels so nice to be out here with other people who feel the same way.”

07:10

Celebrities have joined in the tributes along with the politicians.

Comedian Sarah Silverman said: “RIP RBG. Gutted. Sad. Grateful for all she did. And very very scared.”

Sarah Silverman
(@SarahKSilverman)

RIP RBG. Gutted. Sad.
Grateful for all she did. And very very scared.

September 18, 2020

Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer wrote: “She tried to hang in there for us!! Soar on angel’s wings”, while TV presenter Jameela Jamil commented: “What an icon we have lost.”

Marvel star Robert Downey Jr shared a picture of the late judge alongside a quote said to have been made by her.

Downey Jr said: “’Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.’ RIP, RBG.”

Robert Downey Jr
(@RobertDowneyJr)

“Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” RIP, RBG pic.twitter.com/HLtKG7qdnp

September 19, 2020

Mariah Carey also paid tribute, writing on Instagram: “Thank you for a lifetime of service. Thank you for changing history.

“We will never let it be undone. RIP RBG.”

Updated

06:36

Republicans must abide by 2016 precedent, says Obama

Barack Obama has made a strong call for Republicans to abide by the precedent they set in 2016 when thwarting the former president’s attempts to install Merrick Garland as a supreme court justice.

Barack Obama
(@BarackObama)

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought to the end, through her cancer, with unwavering faith in our democracy and its ideals. That’s how we remember her. But she also left instructions for how she wanted her legacy to be honored. My statement: https://t.co/Wa6YcT5gDi

September 19, 2020

Paying tribute to Ginsburg, whom he called “a relentless litigator and an incisive jurist”, Obama said in a statement:


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.

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. The rule of law, the legitimacy of our courts, the fundamental workings of our democracy all depend on that basic principle. As votes are already being cast in this election, Republican senators are now called to apply that standard.

Read his full statement here.

Updated

06:04

‘I’m devastated,’ says Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton has been on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show to discuss the impact of Ginsburg’s death, saying that her death was “a real threat to the steady march toward progress”.



I’m devastated by this. Just losing her is such a massive hole in my young adulthood, my becoming a lawyer, both practicing and teaching law, looking up to her and following her career. But much more than that, it is such a devastating loss for justice and equality. What Ruth Bader Ginsburg did was to make it abundantly clear that the Constitution had to explicitly, wherever possible, be interpreted as providing for the equal rights of men and women.

MSNBC
(@MSNBC)

Hillary Clinton says Senate Democrats “will have to use every single possible maneuver” to prevent Sen. McConnell from enacting “the greatest travesty” and “monumental hypocrisy” in attempting to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s U.S. Supreme Court seat.https://t.co/QhyyAXrRCR

September 19, 2020

Asked about the decision by the Republicans not to allow Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, to be considered in the Senate in the last election year, 2016, she said:



I often wondered during that time when Mitch McConnell was truly wreaking havoc on our Senate and our norms, our values, and I would argue on the underlying original intent of the constitution and the founders, that presidents have a right to appoint judges to fill vacancies, and Mitch McConnell denied Barack Obama that right. And that set in motion a series of events that I think did great damage to the Senate that can only be remedied by removing Mitch McConnell as the leader of the Senate. That has to happen in this election by getting a Democratic Senate majority.”

She added that McConnell “only cared about power” and said Democrats had to make the most of Republican double standards on the issue.

05:40

Donald Trump ignored shouted questions about Ginsburg’s replacement as he returned to the White House from Minnesota just before midnight on Friday.

White House pool reporters said the US president looked at the media twice, “gave a couple of those waist-level waves but ignored questions about whether or when he would nominate a replacement for the late Justice Ginsburg”.

Trump walks from Marine One to the White House on Friday night.

Trump walks from Marine One to the White House on Friday night. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

Flags at the White House and Eisenhower Executive Office building had been lowered to half-staff.

Trump’s press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, confirmed in an earlier tweet that the flags were lowered out of respect for Justice Ginsburg, whom she called “a trailblazer for women”.

05:30

Kamala Harris, the Democratic party’s vice-presidential candidate, has paid tribute to Ginsburg, calling on the nation to fight for the late justice’s legacy.

Kamala Harris
(@KamalaHarris)

Tonight we mourn, we honor, and we pray for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her family. But we also recommit to fight for her legacy.

Doug and I send our heartfelt prayers to Jane and James, and the entire Ginsburg family, particularly on this holy day of Rosh Hashanah. pic.twitter.com/SNyqZCznfv

September 19, 2020

Harris, who could conceivably have a say in who succeeds Ginsburg if Trump does not get his nomination through, said “we mourn, we honor, and we pray” for Ginsburg and her family.

05:17

With the stage set for an epic political battle over who will succeed Ginsburg, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell indicated that the vote will go ahead quickly.

Although McConnell did not give any specific timing, he implied that Trump’s nominee for the vacant position would be put to the vote before the election in November.

Stand by to hear an awful lot about this process in the coming weeks. But in the meantime my colleague Lauren Gambino has the latest on the political battle ahead:

04:56

And just in case you’ve forgotten about the saga of Merrick Garland, Obama’s thwarted supreme court pick, here is a fateful piece from March 2016 about how it could influence that year’s election.

Updated

04:42

Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein says the Senate should not consider a replacement for the Ginsburg until after inauguration day in January.

The veteran California lawmaker called Ginsburg a trailblazer for women, “a once-in-a-generation legal mind and a passionate champion for the rights of all Americans”.

Kyle Griffin
(@kylegriffin1)

Judiciary Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein: “Under no circumstances should the Senate consider a replacement for Justice Ginsburg until after the presidential inauguration. Senator McConnell made his position clear in 2016.”

September 19, 2020

Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee, pointed to the precedent set by Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell when he refused to hold a confirmation hearing for president Barack Obama’s supreme court pick, Merrick Garland, during an election year.

McConnell “made his position clear in 2016”, Feinstein said.

Feinstein said:



To jam through a lifetime appointment to the country’s highest court – particularly to replace an icon like Justice Ginsburg – would be the height of hypocrisy.

04:24

Hello, I’m Martin Farrer and I’ll continue to bring you more reaction to the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

A suitable place to start feels like the front page of the New York Times, her hometown newwspaper:

Nick Bryant
(@NickBryantNY)

Her hometown newspapers pay homage #rbg pic.twitter.com/jhuVj7clbB

September 19, 2020

04:01

Evening summary: Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead. A massive battle begins.

The announcement that supreme court justice and progressive icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg died this evening has left many Americans shocked and grieving, and has launched an intense political battle within the US senate that could determine the basic rights of millions of Americans for decades to come.

I’m handing over our live politics coverage to our colleagues in Australia, who will continue to cover the reaction to Ginsburg’s death. Here’s summary of some of the key developments of this evening so far:

  • Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the supreme court, died tonight in Washington, from complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer. She was 87.
  • Trump will nominate a replacement for Ginsburg, and the Republican-controlled senate has the power to confirm that nominee to the supreme court.
  • But Republicans have only a slight voting majority, raising questions about whether they have the votes to push through a controversial nominee just weeks before a presidential election. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz suggested they should move fast. Potential Senate swing votes, like Susan Collins and Mitt Romney, will face immense pressure as Republicans count their potential votes.
  • Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell released a statement saying that Trump’s nominee would get a vote in the Senate, but did not say exactly when. McConnell did make clear that he would ignore his own argument from 2016, when he suggested that confirming a president’s supreme court nominee months before a presidential election was inappropriate.
  • It’s very possible that Republicans may have enough votes to push through a nominee of their choice before Election Day. But there’s also the risk of electoral backlash from liberal voters if they do so. McConnell might decide it’s more strategic to try to push through a Republican justice after Nov. 3, but before a new president is sworn in, should Trump lose to Biden.
  • What will happen if the supreme court is left to decide a crucial case about the outcome of the 2020 election with only eight justices, instead of nine (and with a 5-3 conservative majority) is also a pressing question.
  • Ginsburg made her own position clear, telling her granddaughter this week: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

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