On September 18th, 2020, United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away in her home in Washington, D.C. She was fondly known across the nation as “the notorious RBG” for her unwavering commitment to social justice and protecting civil liberties at the highest court. Most notably, RBG’s legal and judicial career has shaped and protected historical womxn’s rights wins. She was only the second woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court and the longest-serving Jewish justice.
While many are mourning the loss of a feminist icon and a powerful woman, RBG’s death is already being politicized because of her position as a Supreme Court Justice. When a justice retires or dies, the President appoints a new justice to replace them. While past Presidents have appointed more than two Supreme Court justices, some people believe that a new justice should not be appointed until after the election. When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, Republicans, particularly Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, argued that it was too close to an election to appoint a new justice. That was 269 days before the 2016 election. Yet, Trump, McConnell, and other Republicans are quick to call for a replacement for RBG– just 46 days before the 2020 election. If Trump appoints a conservative justice to the Supreme Court, it could affect laws and policy for the next fifty years.
Of course, the Supreme Court is one of the most powerful institutions in the United States, and the appointment of judges is political because the Senate must approve the President’s nomination. However, is it fair for Trump to make a decision that will irreversibly affect policy for decades just weeks before a historic national election? While policy circles and politicians on the Hill debate the replacement agenda, womxn and girls across the nation mourn the loss of a hero. While we should all be concerned with the future of womxn’s rights, civil liberties, and political ramifications, it is important to remember that RBG is more than just a political piece. She was an accomplished woman, proud mother, and a talented lawyer and justice.
Ginsburg graduated from Cornell University in 1954 and attended both Harvard Law School and Columbia Law School, eventually graduating first in her class at Columbia. During that time, it was unusual for a woman to pursue education past the undergraduate level. As a result, she faced sexist comments and actions every day and had to work harder for all of her achievements.
She later went on to teach law for seventeen years as a professor at Rutgers University School of Law and then Columbia Law School. She was appointed by Jimmy Carter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. in 1980. President Bill Clinton then appointed Ginsberg to the Supreme Court in 1993 where she served until her death. During her time as Supreme Court justice, RBG defended womxn’s rights, especially pertaining to reproductive rights.
It wasn’t until 2013 that RBG really came into the pop culture mainstream. An NYU Law student, Shana Knizhik, created the nickname “Notorious RBG,” on Tumblr in response to Ginsberg’s dissenting opinion in the Shelby County v. Holder case. The decision on this case allowed state and county governments to pass more voting restriction laws, which disproportionately affect minorities. Ginsberg’s dissent was so powerful that it inspired Knizhik to create Ginsberg’s iconic nickname after the “Notorious B.I.G.” It caught on quickly, and the rest was history.
While, like most public figures, politicians, or justices, RBG’s record was not perfect, and she could not always help or protect everyone, she is still championed as a feminist icon for breaking barriers and fighting for gender equality. Now that her seat is vacant, the already conservative (5-4) Supreme Court could become even more conservative if Trump appoints a replacement before the election. Anyone who cares about womxn should be concerned about the future of the Supreme Court. And while we continue to fight for our rights, we must remember RBG’s lasting legacy.
Photos: Her Campus Media