Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died

By Fernando Alfonso III, Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 8:10 a.m. ET, September 20, 2020
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2:47 a.m. ET, September 19, 2020

Opinion: Ginsburg made the law fairer for every woman

From Mary Ziegler

Editor's note: Mary Ziegler, a law professor at Florida State University, is the author of "Abortion and the Law in America: Roe v. Wade to the Present." The views expressed here are hers.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg's passing marks the end of an era in more ways than one.

Having repeatedly beaten cancer, Ginsburg had come to almost seem invincible. She was a larger than life figure who became a hero to many young women trying to follow the path she forged in the legal profession. Ginsburg's age and frail health were no secret, but her loss still comes as a shock.

Perhaps more than any other jurist, Ginsburg transformed the law of sex discrimination in America. It is hard to imagine the Supreme Court without her.

Even before joining the Supreme Court, she convinced an all-male Supreme Court that laws enforcing sex stereotypes violated the Constitution -- and demonstrated how those laws harmed men as well as women. Ginsburg helped make sense of how discrimination against pregnant workers could be pernicious.

On the court, Ginsburg offered the clearest and most cogent defense of abortion rights. She showed that sex discrimination involved often-baseless generalizations -- a conclusion that helped advance successful equality claims made by LGBTQ+ groups.

Ginsburg has become an icon for a reason. Her impact on constitutional jurisprudence is hard to overestimate.

Read more here:

12:24 a.m. ET, September 19, 2020

McConnell urges senators to keep "powder dry" and don't lock themselves into a position

From CNN's Manu Raju

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

In a message to GOP senators late Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged his colleagues not to lock themselves into a position they may later regret and counseled them to be cautious about what they are telling the media about their views on how to process the nomination, according to a person who saw the note.

He urges them to "keep your powder dry."

McConnell doesn't indicate a timeframe for considering the nomination but makes clear he believes there's enough time to take up the nominee this year.

12:14 a.m. ET, September 19, 2020

Here's what happened when Senate Republicans refused to vote on Merrick Garland's Supreme Court nomination in 2016

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The death of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg less than two months from the presidential election has forced a reexamination of Republicans' 11-month blockade of Merrick Garland in 2016.

Justice Antonin Scalia, who had been a conservative stalwart on the Supreme Court since being nominated by then-President Ronald Reagan in 1986, died on February 13, 2016.

Within hours -- as other senators were offering condolences to Scalia's family -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a stunning, categorical rejection of then-President Barack Obama's authority more than 11 months before the Democrat's replacement would be sworn into office.

"The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president," McConnell said.

Four years later, McConnell said in a Friday night statement that President Donald Trump's nominee to replace Ginsburg will get a vote in the Senate. Doing so would be a complete reversal of his position in 2016, when the GOP-led Senate refused to hold a hearing or vote on Obama's nominee, saying it was too close to the election.

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11:57 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

White House prepared to move "very quickly" on replacement once Trump signals intention

From CNN's Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins

The White House is prepared to move “very quickly” on putting forward a nominee to replace US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once President Donald Trump signals his intentions, a senior administration official says.

Officials feel confident in their ability to shepherd a potential nominee through the process on a condensed timeline, and say they will now await Trump’s signal on how to proceed. 

The official said the process will be based in the Counsel’s office, led by Pat Cipollone, though it is expected chief of staff Mark Meadows will be heavily involved on Capitol Hill. 

The official said several potential nominees have been through at least some type of vetting given the previous vacancies and the list Trump produced earlier this month, which could help expedite the process. 

An additional official said the campaign and White House had planned to put out a short list of candidates to fill a vacancy should one become available before the election. Ginsburg's passing has altered that planning, but shows the White House was already paring down candidates and making a shorter list. 

2:48 a.m. ET, September 19, 2020

Opinion: Filling RBG's seat now could break American democracy

From Joshua A. Douglas

Editor's note: Joshua A. Douglas is a law professor at the University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.

While a law student at the University of Kentucky, the institution where I teach, Senator Mitch McConnell surely learned about the importance of justice and democracy. In the wake of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's passing on Friday evening, there is one action that McConnell can take that may very well save our democracy: announce that the Senate will not consider a Supreme Court nomination until after Inauguration Day 2021.

Ginsburg was a trailblazer in many ways: for women's equalityvoting rights, and so much more. Her passing leaves an amazing legacy.

But it also unfortunately occurred with only 46 days until Election Day, when the politics of the moment could not be more vitriolic. Within minutes of her passing, people were speculating as to whether Donald Trump would nominate a new justice and whether the Republican-controlled Senate would confirm someone before the next presidency.

Ginsburg herself made her wishes known as her dying declaration: "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."

Any other path, except for announcing a public pause to defuse the situation, would be extremely dangerous for democracy.

Read more here:

11:21 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Ginsburg's death means Republican senators will face the ultimate test of their loyalty to Trump

Analysis by CNN's Chris Cillizza

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday -- followed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's statement that "Trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate" -- creates a stark choice for the 52 GOP senators that boils down to this: Just how loyal are you to President Donald Trump?

Republicans face the very real possibility of losing both the White House and their Senate majority in November. Ginsburg's death creates what many conservatives view as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to move the makeup of the court from its current lineup of five conservative justices to four liberal justices to a more dominant 6-3 majority. And for Trump to appoint a third young justice -- both Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh are under 60 -- who could help serve as the conservative foundation of the court for decades to come.

The countervailing force against all of that is tradition, the weight of history and just how much a senator's past statements actually matter.

Read more here:

9:25 a.m. ET, September 19, 2020

Trump: "Today, our Nation mourns the loss of a titan of the law"

From CNN's Jim Acosta and Paul LeBlanc

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted the following statement on the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Trump's first comments on Ginsburg's death came after a rally in Minnesota on Friday night where he appeared to hear the news for the first time from reporters. "Just died?" he responded, when asked about her death.

"I didn't know that. I just — you're telling me now for the first time. She led an amazing life," Trump said. "What else can you say? She was an amazing woman, whether you agree or not, she was an amazing woman who led an amazing life. I'm actually sad to hear that. I am sad to hear that."

9:15 a.m. ET, September 19, 2020

Crowd gathered outside the Supreme Court breaks into applause to honor Ginsburg

From CNN's Kelsie Smith

People gather to mourn the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg outside the Supreme Court on September 18 in Washington, DC.
People gather to mourn the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg outside the Supreme Court on September 18 in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Michael Wille was at the new Eisenhower Memorial on Independence Avenue in Washington, DC, when he learned of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg from a tweet from CNN’s Kaitlan Collins.

He rushed to his car and drove to the Supreme Court to capture a memorial that has been set up on the steps for the late justice.

While gathered at the steps outside of the Supreme Court, a crowd broke out into applause to honor Ginsburg.

 “The applause was spontaneous,” Wille said. “Some people on the steps just started doing it. And it continued for about 40 seconds.”

Even though he disagreed with Ginsburg’s judicial philosophy, Willie said he found her to be a brilliant legal mind who paved the way for so many women in the United States.

“She was a friend to Justice Scalia and their example of friendship is what we all could use during this year,” Wille said.

“RIP to a legend,” he posted to Twitter.

Watch a moment of the applause:

10:51 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Scalia's son reflects on his late father's friendship with Ginsburg in a series of moving tweets

Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia  and Ruth Bader Ginsburg wait for the beginning of the taping of "The Kalb Report" in Washington, DC, in 2014. 
Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg wait for the beginning of the taping of "The Kalb Report" in Washington, DC, in 2014.  Alex Wong/Getty Images

Christopher Scalia, the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, shared a few stories about Ruth Bader Ginsburg who shared a close friendship with his father.

"I'm very sad to hear about the passing of my parents' good friend, and my father's wonderful colleague, Justice Ginsburg," he tweeted. "May her memory be a blessing."

He went on to share a couple of passages from his father's book "Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived" that he said "convey what she meant to my dad." The passages include his father's sentiments about his friendship with Ginsburg.