Sep 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87


Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died of metastatic pancreatic cancer at age 87, the Supreme Court announced Friday evening.

The big picture: Ginsburg had suffered from serious health issues over the past few years. As an attorney and then as a justice Ginsburg cemented a legacy as one of the foremost champions of women's rights, raising gender equality to a constitutional issue. Her death sets up a fight over filling a Supreme Court seat with less than 50 days until the election.

  • Just days before her death, Ginsburg dictated this statement to her granddaughter: "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed," according to NPR.

The big picture: Ginsburg was a progressive icon and the second woman to ever be confirmed to the Supreme Court. She'd served on the court since 1993.

Looking back on Ginsburg's life

Early years: Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 15, 1933. While she later became non-observant, she was born into a Jewish household. Her parents were of Ukrainian and Austrian decent.

  • Ginsburg's mother in particular valued education, and would often take her daughter to the library and hoped she'd attend college one day. Ginsburg's mother died before her high school graduation.
  • The future justice attended Cornell University, where she met her husband, Martin Ginsburg. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in government and as the highest ranking female student in her class.
  • Upon graduation, she married Martin, and joined him in moving to Oklahoma. She took a job at the Social Security Administration, where she was demoted after becoming pregnant with her first child.
  • Ginsburg ultimately enrolled in Harvard Law School, where she was one of nine women in a class of roughly 500. She later transferred to Columbia Law School, earning her degree in 1959 and tying for first in her class. She became the first woman to be featured in two major law reviews: both Harvard and Columbia's.

Career: Ginsburg struggled to find employment at the start of her career, being rejected on grounds of her gender, despite glowing recommendations from her professors. She eventually landed a clerkship role, followed by time conducting research in Sweden. She got her first teaching position at Rutgers University, where she was paid less than her male counterparts because her husband already had a well-paying job.

  • Ginsburg went on to a number of other roles in academia, and worked to develop programs meant to strengthen legal protections for women. She's credited with making significant advancements for women under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.
  • Former President Carter nominated Ginsburg to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1980, where she served until former President Clinton nominated her to the Supreme Court in 1993.
  • Ginsburg was confirmed by Senate by a 96-3 vote.

Ginsburg's husband passed in 2010. She leaves behind two children: James and Jane.

What we're hearing: Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who has long been viewed as next in line to fill a vacancy on the bench, is still at the top of the list after her inclusion on Trump's original list, along with Judge Amul Thapar and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Axios Alayna Treene reports.

  • Many within the conservative movement have been lobbying the Trump administration to give more consideration to Lee, especially after his performance fiercely defending the Constitution during Trump's impeachment proceedings, one source familiar with the discussions tells Axios.
  • Trump signaled as far back as as during Brett Kavanaugh’s selection and as recently as this year that he had his eye on Barrett to replace Ginsburg when the time came, sources told Axios' Jonathan Swan.

Go deeper:

Go deeper