Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivers remarks at the Georgetown Law Center on September 12, 2019, in Washington, DC.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87
05:06 - Source: CNN

What you need to know

  • Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died. She was 87.
  • Ginsburg, the second woman appointed to the bench, achieved an icon status, particularly among young lawyers — and her dissents enhanced her prominence.
  • Her death — less than seven weeks before Election Day — has set the stage for a political fight over the future of the court. 

Our live coverage has ended for the day.

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Massachusetts governor urges Trump and Senate to nominate Ginsburg's replacement after election

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker speaks at a press conference in Fitchburg, Massachusetts on September 15.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker urged President Trump and the US Senate “to allow the American people to cast their ballots for President before a new justice is nominated or confirmed.”

In a tweet Saturday, Baker called the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg “not only a loss for the court but for the entire nation.”

On Friday, Baker endorsed incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine in her upcoming election. His endorsement was featured Friday in an ad paid for by the Republican Jewish Coalition.

“As governor of Massachusetts I work with both parties to get things done. Susan Collins does that in the senate. She’s pro-environment, pro-women, pro-Maine. We need more leaders like Susan. I hope you reelect her,” he said. 

Collins released a statement Friday evening on the passing of Ginsburg, but did not mention whether the nomination of a new justice should happen before or after the presidential election.

Read the tweet:

British embassy in Washington, DC, lowers flags to half-mast in honor of Ginsburg

The British embassy in Washington, DC, has lowered its flags in honor of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, according to its official Twitter account.

Read the tweet:

White House would like to announce Supreme Court nominee before the first presidential debate

The American flag flies at half-staff above the White House on Saturday.

A Trump adviser close to the process said the White House would like to announce a pick for the Supreme Court before the first presidential debate, which is scheduled for Sept. 29.

Some more context: One source close to the process of searching for a new Supreme Court justice believes that the top of President Trump’s list includes Judges Amy Coney Barrett, Barbara Lagoa and Amul Thapar.

Ginsburg was a "champion of justice and women's equality," Jill Biden says

Jill Biden, the wife of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, briefly mentioned the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during an Ohio virtual canvassing launch event Saturday.

Biden said that Ginsburg lived “an illustrious and fearless life.”

“As a champion of justice and women’s equality, and today my heart is with her family as our nation mourns her,” Biden said.

Supreme Court justices release statements on the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justices of the US Supreme Court sit for their official group photo in 2018. From left, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Justice Elena Kagan, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and Justice Samuel A. Alito.

The remaining Supreme Court justices have released statements following the death of their colleague Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Read excerpts from their statements below:

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.

“Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature. 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 tireless and resolute champion of justice.”

Justice Clarence Thomas

My wife, Virginia, and I are heartbroken to learn of the passing of our friend, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ruth and I first met when I began my tenure on the DC Circuit in 1990. With the exception of the brief period between our respective appointments to the Supreme Court, we have since been judicial colleagues. Through the many challenges both professionally and personally, she was the essence of grace, civility and dignity. She was a superb judge who gave her best and exacted the best from each of us, whether in agreement or disagreement. And, as outstanding as she was as a judge, she was an even better colleague – unfailingly gracious, thoughtful, and civil.”

Justice Stephen G. Breyer

“I heard of Ruth’s death while I was reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish at the Rosh Hashanah service. I thought:
a great Justice;
a woman of valour;
a rock of righteousness; and my good, good friend.
The world is a better place for her having lived in it.
And so is her family; her friends;
the legal community; and the nation.”

Justice Samuel A. Alito

“Martha-Ann and I were deeply saddened by the news that Justice Ginsburg has passed away. Ruth and Marty made us feel at home immediately when I joined the Court, and we will certainly miss her. Justice Ginsburg will go down as a leading figure in the history of the Court. She will be remembered for her intelligence, learning, and remarkable fortitude. She has been and will continue to be an inspiration for many.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor

“My dear friend and colleague Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an American hero. She spent her life fighting for the equality of all people, and she was a pathbreaking champion of women’s rights. She served our Court and country with consummate dedication, tirelessness, and passion for justice. She has left a legacy few could rival.
I will miss Ruth greatly. She welcomed me to the Court with a warmth I could not have expected, and I came to feel a special kinship with her. She was someone whose wisdom, kindness, and unwavering support I could always rely on. I will forever cherish the moments we shared.”

Justice Elena Kagan

“To me, as to countless others, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a hero. As an attorney, she led the fight
to grant women equal rights under the law. As a judge, she did justice every day–working to ensure that this country’s legal system lives up to its ideals and extends its rights and protections to those once excluded. And in both roles, she held to–indeed, exceeded–the highest standards of legal craft. Her work was as careful as it was creative, as disciplined as it was visionary. It will endure for as long as Americans retain their commitment to law. Ruth reached out to encourage and assist me in my career, as she did for so many others, long before I came to the Supreme Court. And she guided and inspired me, on matters large and small, once I became her colleague.”

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch

“Louise and I have lost a cherished colleague and friend. For forty years, Ruth served the American people as one of our most distinguished judges. Her sacrifices for the country were many, but always performed with honor. We are blessed by the happy memories that will remain, like traveling with Ruth to London where (to her delight) an uninformed guide kept calling her ‘Ruthie,’ or all the opera she tried so valiantly to teach me, or her sweet tooth at lunch, or the touching stories of her remarkable life with Marty. We will miss Ruth and our hearts go out to her family. May she rest in peace.”

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh

“No American has ever done more than Justice Ginsburg to ensure equal justice under law for women. She was a cherished colleague, and she inspired me, and all of us, with her unparalleled work ethic and devotion to the law. A meticulous and pathmarking judge, she held herself to the highest standards of precision and accuracy in her beautifully crafted opinions. And she inspired all of us to try to meet those same exacting standards. I learned from her principled voice and marveled at her wonderful wit at our weekly conferences and daily lunches. Justice Ginsburg paved the way for women to become lawyers and judges. She made it possible for women and girls like my daughters to compete on equal footing as student-athletes. When Justice Ginsburg was last in my office earlier this year, I pointed out a photo I keep of her standing with four women who served as law clerks in my chambers in my first term.
As long as I am fortunate enough to serve on the Supreme Court, I will keep that photo prominently in my office as a continuing tribute to Justice Ginsburg and as a daily reminder to work hard and pursue equal justice. May God bless Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy

“The members of the Court always will cherish all that Justice Ginsburg meant to us as a distinguished jurist and an inspiring, wonderful person. She will have an esteemed piece in the history of our Court. Ruth was a close, dear friend. Mary joins me in sending our deepest sympathies to her family.
In our court sessions and conferences Ruth was remarkably well prepared for every case, down to the smallest detail. If the two of us disagreed, it was always in a civil, principled, respectful way.
By her learning she taught devotion to the law. By her dignity she taught respect for others and her love for America. By her reverence for the Constitution, she taught us to preserve it to secure our freedom.”

Meghan Markle says Ginsburg had an "incomparable and indelible legacy"

Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, said Ruth Bader Ginsburg will “forever be known as a woman of brilliance” following her death Friday.

“With an incomparable and indelible legacy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg will forever be known as a woman of brilliance, a Justice of courage, and a human of deep conviction. She has been a true inspiration to me since I was a girl. Honor her, remember her, act for her,” Markle said in a statement.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman suggests he would advance Supreme Court nominee this year

Sen. Linsey Graham departs from the Senate Floor after a vote on Wednesday, September 16.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham indicated that he would attempt to advance a Supreme Court nominee from President Trump this year.

On Twitter, Graham pointed people to remarks he made on filling a Supreme Court seat earlier this year.

Graham also quoted Trump’s tweet which called for the GOP to act quickly on a nominee, saying, “I fully understand where the President is coming from.”

One of the articles Graham posted on Twitter was an interview he did with “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren,” in which he explained that he would try and confirm a Supreme Court nominee if there was an opening, even though it is an election year.

He told Van Susteren that he believed this situation would be different than with Merrick Garland because in this case, the Senate and the executive bodies are controlled by the same party, which was not the case in 2016.

Where the search for a new Supreme Court justice stands

Judge Amy Coney Barrett delivers a speech at the University of Notre Dame's Law School commencement in 2018.

One source close to the process of searching for a new Supreme Court justice believes that the top of President Trump’s list includes Judges Amy Coney Barrett, Barbara Lagoa and Amul Thapar.

In the run up to the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation, Trump met with both Barrett and Thapar; it’s unclear if he’s had a face to face meeting with Lagoa.

Some history: Barrett, Trump’s nominee to the 7th circuit, is a favorite of supporters of religious liberty who point to her extensive writings on faith and the law. During her confirmation hearing, ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, asked her if the “dogma lives loudly in her.”

The comments infuriated Barrett’s supporters, who said Feinstein was trying to apply a religious litmus test. In a 2013 publication affiliated with Notre Dame, Barrett was quoted as saying she thinks it is “very unlikely at this point” that the court is going to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

Thapar is a long time favorite of Sen. Mitch McConnell. Thapar now sits on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. He was the first American of South Asian descent to be named to an Article III judgeship. Lagoa hails from Florida and was the first Hispanic woman and the first Cuban American woman on the Supreme Court in Florida. She has deep connections in the state that could be a battleground. 

Watch more:

What you need to know about the cancer that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was diagnosed with

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday from complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Ginsburg was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2009. Earlier this year, she announced a recurrence of the cancer, having discovered lesions on her liver. 

Experts say that about 95% of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will die from it. There are currently no general screening tools for pancreatic cancer, and there are often no symptoms in the early stages, when the tumor would be most treatable. The cancer is often discovered at more advanced stages, sometimes when it has spread to other organs, known as metastasis. 

The National Cancer Institute named pancreatic cancer as the third-leading cause of death from cancers, after lung and colorectal cancers in 2018.  The institute says that about 10% of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will survive for five years or more.

The American Cancer Society estimates 57,600 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2020 and 47,050 will die due to the cancer. 

Some context: Ginsburg is the second icon lost this year who battled with pancreatic cancer. 

Civil rights icon and late US Democratic Representative John Lewis was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer last year and died this July. 

Higher rates of pancreatic cancer are seen in men and African Americans. The risk of pancreatic cancer also increases with age. The average age of diagnosis is 71, and nearly 90% of patients are older than 55. 

CNN’s Elizabeth Landau contributed to this report.

"Notorious RBG" co-author explains Ginsburg’s "superhero status in American culture"

Shana Knizhnik, who created the blog Notorious RBG in 2013 and co-authored a book by the same name, explained why Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life and work resonated with young people — and young women, in particular. 

Knizhnik discussed how the blog’s name was inspired by the rapper Notorious B.I.G., a Brooklyn native, like Ginsburg.  

“It started out as a joke, right? It was sort of a play on contrasts between this amazing rapper who died very early in life and this diminutive…octogenarian Supreme Court justice,” Knizhnik, a lawyer, told CNN.

She said that Ginsburg served as a role model for many young people. 

“I think that her notoriety, her incredible, superhero status in American culture was something that people were sort of yearning for and especially young people and young women in particular. Because, you know, we just don’t have that many role models to look up to who have achieved what she had achieved and also who had fought so much in her own life for the values that we’re still fighting for today,” she said.

Ginsburg officiated Knizhnik’s wedding ceremony one year ago today. 

Watch more:

Gen Z women reflect on growing up with Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court

For young women, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a role model who demonstrated what‘s possible for them.

Seeing a woman on the Supreme Court was inspirational, and that representation matters, said 20-year-old Eve Levenson, a junior at George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Levenson met Justice Ginsburg during her first week of college, she told CNN.

“After [Ginsburg] finished her remarks to the group, I immediately raised my hand to ask a question: ‘What is your advice to women entering male dominated fields?’ Her answer was succinct and powerful: ‘Patience and persistence,’” Levenson said. 

“RBG was one of the main reasons I grew up believing that despite what anybody said about my religion, ethnicity, or gender that I could do anything I set my mind to,” Levenson, who is Jewish, added. “Seeing yourself represented in the highest court of the land is a powerful image.”

Kimberly Collins, a 20-year-old Black woman, is a member of Scales of Justice Academy, a program which exposes underserved girls to the legal profession, she said.

According to Collins, the most profound lesson Ginsburg taught her, “is that the fight for equity and justice is worth every single obstacle and setback,” she said.

“As a woman of color, it was not normal for me to connect or receive this kind of inspiration from the few women that had national platforms,” Collins told CNN. “Yet, I connected with RBG. With her it was different. I knew she was fighting for me.”

Ritika Iyer, a 20-year-old Hindu Indian woman, spoke to Ginsburg’s legacy of dissent.

“RBG taught me that it’s ok to disagree and be vocal about it. As a women, I sometimes tend to not want to rock the boat. But the way she would vehemently dissent and refuse to put up with the status quo inspired me to be more vocal about my opinions,” she said.

New York state to honor Ginsburg with a statue in Brooklyn

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state will honor the life and legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a statue in Brooklyn, her birthplace.

“This statue will serve as a physical reminder of Justice Ginsburg’s monumental contributions to the America we know today and as an inspiration for all,” Cuomo tweeted.

Read his message:

Here are some of the signs left outside the Supreme Court in honor of Ginsburg

Mourners gathered this morning in front of the Supreme Court to pay tribute to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Last night, hundreds of people showed up in front of the building after news broke that Ginsburg had died.

CNN’s Ariane de Vogue shared photos of some of the signs placed at the makeshift vigil:

Kamala Harris visited the Supreme Court this morning

A campaign aide said Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff walked down to the Supreme Court this morning following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Mourners have been gathering in front of the building this morning to pay their respects to the late justice.

In a statement released overnight, Harris called Ginsburg “a relentless defender of justice in our country and a legal mind for the ages.”

Harris tweeted the following photo from her visit:

Trump indicates he will move forward on appointing a nominee for Supreme Court without delay

President Trump, in his first tweets of the day following the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, appeared to indicate that he will move forward on appointing a nominee “without delay.” 

”.@GOP We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!,” Trump tweeted.

Some background: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed on Friday that whomever Trump nominates to replace Ginsburg will get a vote on the Senate floor.

GOP aides are skeptical that there is enough time to confirm a nominee before Nov. 3, given that Supreme Court nominees typically take two to three months to process, according to a review of recent confirmation proceedings.

But that process could be sped up if McConnell, who controls the majority of the chamber, has the votes to confirm a replacement, and there is enough time to confirm someone in a lame-duck session of Congress after the November elections.

Flags in Texas to be lowered in Ginsburg's honor, governor says

Gov. Greg Abbott today ordered all Texas flags to be lowered to honor the life and legacy of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

“My heart goes out to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s family, and Cecilia and I are keeping them in our prayers,” Abbott said in a statement. “Justice Ginsburg was a trailblazer of keen intellect and will be remembered as a judicial giant. She put service above self and leaves behind a grateful nation.” 

Abbott’s decision to lower the flags follows similar actions from the governors of Kentucky and Connecticut.

How Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death could reshape the 2020 campaign

As America mourned the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — a brilliant trailblazer for women and an equal rights icon — a fierce new political debate began unfolding Friday evening.

With just 45 days until the election, the battle over who will replace her and when that Senate vote will occur is already reshaping the stakes in more than a half-dozen closely fought Senate races, while galvanizing impassioned voters on both sides of the presidential campaign.

The death of a Supreme Court justice so close to the November election was all but certain to thrust America’s culture wars back to the center of the political debate in a year dominated by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

That battle has the ability to breathe new energy into the electorate — activating conservative Republicans who have grown weary of President Trump but view the election as a chance to shape the court, while also mobilizing millions of female voters who are already infuriated by Trump’s degradation of women and would view his ability to nominate three Supreme Court justices in a single term as an assault on their values.

Read the full analysis here.

Trump talked privately about nominating a female justice before Ginsburg's death

Before Justice Ginsburg’s death, President Trump had talked privately this summer about the prospect of nominating a female justice in order to boost his support among women voters, people familiar with the conversations said.  

Now that the prospect has become a reality, Amy Coney Barrett’s name has emerged as a favorite after being considered for Trump’s previous Supreme Court vacancies. She was confirmed as a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 2017 after being nominated by the President. 

Advocates pushing for Barrett last time were told by White House officials after Brett Kavanaugh was nominated that she was very much still in the running for another vacancy, according to one person familiar with the conversations. There was a belief among her supporters that Trump favored nominating her to replace a female justice like Ginsburg, the person said. 

Her nomination now is far from assured: Among administration officials, there is a sense they have no room for error given the tight timing and fraught election year politics of this vacancy. 

While Barrett is still a favorite, hers would be a tough confirmation (as it was in 2017) given her opposition to abortion and a devout Catholic faith that Democrats have claimed would color her legal views. 

It’s not clear yet whether Trump and his aides believe a more widely accepted nominee would be a smarter route — or whether such a nominee even exists in the current political climate. 

One official said the President could begin meeting with nominees next week as the White House ramps up its preparations for a confirmation.

Read about other notable names on Trump’s list of nominees here.

Kentucky governor orders flags lowered to half-staff in honor of Ginsburg

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has ordered all state office flags to be lowered to half-staff in honor of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The flags will remain in that position until sunset on the day of Ginsburg’s internment, a statement from the governor’s office said.

Beshear reacted to Ginsbrug’s death in a tweet, calling her a “trailblazer who served our country and our people.”

Hundreds gathered outside the Supreme Court last night to honor Ginsburg

After news broke that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died, hundreds showed up outside the Supreme Court last night to pay tribute to her with a makeshift memorial on the building’s steps.

“You just feel gravitated to be here. For younger folks like ourselves, she represents so much, so much progress that has been made. It just felt like a natural place to be,” one attendee told CNN affiliate WJLA.

Vigils also took place in other cities, including Denver and San Francisco.

Watch the scene outside the Supreme Court:

At about 9 p.m., the crowd had grown since the announcement of Ginsburg’s death at around 7:30 p.m., CNN reported from the scene.