Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Has Died At 87

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The Supreme Court said in a statement that the justice died at home, surrounded by family.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “trailblazing feminist, and the closest thing to a folk hero the high court has ever seen,” has died at the age of 87 after a battle with metastatic pancreatic cancer, The Daily Beast reported Friday.

NPR reported that the justice died at her home in Washington, surrounded by family, according to a statement from the court.

"Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature," Chief Justice John Roberts said. "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 tired and resolute champion of justice."

The Daily Beast wrote of the late justice:

Already the subject of two recent films and countless memes, “RBG” the pop-cultural icon has perhaps obscured Ginsburg’s nearly unparalleled impact on the Supreme Court. Well before her “dissent collar,” jabots, and other decorative apparel; before the fiery dissents that rivaled those of the late Justice Antonin Scalia; even before Ginsburg ascended to the court, her place in judicial history was already assured.

From 1972, when she co-founded the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, until 1980 when she became a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Ginsburg altered the course of constitutional interpretation. She persuaded the Warren Court to extend the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection clause to women.

Born in 1933 to a moderately religious Jewish family in Brooklyn, Ruth Bader quickly distinguished herself, graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell University, then attending Harvard Law School (famously, she was one of nine women in a class of about 500 students total), and transferring to Columbia Law School when her husband Martin took a job in New York City. She graduated first in her class.

The Daily Beast noted that Ginsburg was rejected from a Supreme Court clerkship due to being a woman.

In the ’80s, Ginsburg earned a reputation—perhaps surprisingly, given her subsequent notoriety—as a meticulous, deliberate moderate. After being nominated to the Supreme Court in 1993, she was confirmed by the Senate 96-3, despite articulating clearly liberal positions on the constitutional right to privacy—the foundation of Roe v. Wade and other controversial cases—and gender equality. (The myth that Ginsburg was somehow evasive about these issues, as Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh were at their confirmation hearings, has no basis in reality.)

Arguably, Ginsburg’s latter-day reputation only began to take hold in the mid-2000s, as she dissented from rulings by an increasingly conservative Supreme Court. Had Ginsburg “found her voice,” as New York Times Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse put it? Or had the Court simply moved so far to the right that Ginsburg’s views, once mainstream, were now the subject of angry dissents? History will have to judge.

NPR noted that “Ginsburg's death will have profound consequences for the court and the country.”

Inside the court, not only is the leader of the liberal wing gone, but with the Court about to open a new term, Chief Justice John Roberts no longer holds the controlling vote in closely contested cases.


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