U.S. Supreme Court justice remembered for her advocacy of equality
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a champion of equal rights and the second woman appointed as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, died Friday from complications of metastatic pancreas cancer. She was 87.
Mrs. Ginsburg was nominated in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and confirmed that year by the Senate. Before then, the only woman on the Supreme Court was Sandra Day O’Connor, who was nominated by President Ronald Reagan and confirmed by the Senate in 1981.
At the time of her death, Justice Ginsburg was the most senior member of the court’s liberal wing. She was known for her support for the wing’s votes on abortion rights, same-sex marriage, voting rights, immigration, health care and affirmative action.
“Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement. “We at the (SCOTUS) 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 & resolute champion of justice.”
Those who knew Justice Ginsburg include Santa Barbara author Jane Sherron De Hart.
Dr. De Hart, a UCSB professor of history emeritus, met Mrs. Ginsburg in 1995 at a meeting of the Supreme Court Historical Society. Dr. De Hart said Justice Ginsburg’s eyes lit up when she mentioned a mutual friend.
“She said, ‘I had a beer with him the last time he was in town,’ ” Dr. De Hart, a UCSB professor of history emeritus, told the News-Press in 2019. “Before she left, she made a point of telling me to feel free to ask her any questions in the future.
“That was the start of our annual get-togethers,” Dr. De Hart said.
She went on to write “Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life” (Alfred Knopf, 2018).
During her many conversations with Justice Ginsburg and hours of research, the author explored the justice’s passion for justice and work for gender equality (male and female), as well as her desire to make “We the People” more united.
The justice’s landmark cases included her support of striking down the all-male admissions policy at the Virginia Military Institute (United States v. Virginia, 1996) and granting same-sex couples the right to marry in all 50 states (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015).
The daughter of a Jewish immigrant from Russia, Justice Ginsburg was born March 15, 1933, in Brooklyn. She received her bachelor’s at Cornell University, attended Harvard Law School and earned her law degree at Columbia Law School. She served as a law clerk for a U.S. District Court judge in New York, and her career included work as a law professor at Rutgers University School of Law.
In 1971, Justice Ginsburg launched the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, and she served as the ACLU’s general counsel from 1973-80 and on its national board from 1974-80.
Over the years, Justice Ginsburg filed many briefs to persuade courts that the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection applies not just to racial and ethnic minorities, but women as well.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter named her as a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Justice Ginsburg’s death gives President Donald Trump his third opportunity to add his choice of a justice to the Supreme Court. He previously nominated Neil Gorusch and Brett Kavanaugh, both of whom were confirmed by the Senate.
On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he will hold a Senate vote on President Trump’s nominee, who has not been named.
Local elected officials reacted to Mrs. Ginsburg’s passing on Friday.
“Tonight our nation lost an icon, a trailblazer, and a pillar of justice. I am devastated to hear of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, and my heart goes out to her family and to our country as we grieve this incredible loss,” Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, said in a statement. “She leaves behind a lasting legacy as a champion for women’s rights and fierce advocate for equality. I am grateful we had such a force for good sitting on our highest court to uphold our constitution and the values we hold dear.
“Rest in peace, Justice Ginsburg. Your memory and contributions to our country will live on for generations.”
Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, shared on Twitter the “devastating news that one of the truly great ones has gone.”
“Thank you RBG for all you have done for women, for justice and for humanity,” Sen. Jackson wrote. “You will be excruciatingly sorely missed.”
News-Press Associate Editor Mitchell White and staff writer Marilyn McMahon contributed to this story.