Long lines of mourn­ers pay re­spects to Ruth Bader Gins­burg at court

El Dorado News-Times - - National Extra - By Mark Sher­man and Matthew Barakat

WASH­ING­TON — With crowds of ad­mir­ers swelling out­side, Supreme Court Jus­tice Ruth Bader Gins­burg was re­mem­bered Wed­nes­day at the court by griev­ing fam­ily, col­leagues and friends as a prophet for jus­tice who per­se­vered against long odds to be­come an Amer­i­can icon.

The court’s eight jus­tices, masked along with ev­ery­one else be­cause of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, gath­ered for the first time in more than six months for the cer­e­mony to mark Gins­burg’s death from can­cer last week at age 87 af­ter 27 years on the court.

Wash­ing­ton al­ready is con­sumed with talk of Gins­burg’s re­place­ment, but Chief Jus­tice John Roberts fo­cused on his long­time col­league.

The best words to de­scribe Gins­burg are “tough, brave, a fighter, a win­ner,” Roberts said, but also “thought­ful, care­ful, com­pas­sion­ate, hon­est.”

The woman who late in life be­came known in ad­mi­ra­tion as the No­to­ri­ous RBG “wanted to be an opera vir­tu­oso, but be­came a rock star in­stead,” Roberts said. Gins­burg’s two chil­dren, Jane and James, and other fam­ily mem­bers sat on one side of the cas­ket, across from the jus­tices.

With her por­trait on dis­play nearby, Gins­burg’s flag-draped cas­ket sat in the court’s Great Hall for the pri­vate ser­vice be­fore it was moved out­side so the public could honor her. Health pre­cau­tions be­cause of the pan­demic led the court to limit the num­ber of peo­ple inside the build­ing, which has been closed to the public since March.

Through the day, thou­sands of peo­ple paid their re­spects to the women’s rights cham­pion and leader of the court’s lib­eral bloc. As dark­ness fell, the line stretched nearly half a mile from the court as peo­ple filed past. The cas­ket was to be on public view un­til 10 p.m. Wed­nes­day and from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thurs­day.

Inside ear­lier, the mem­bers of the court were ar­rayed in their seats in or­der of se­nior­ity, now changed by Gins­burg’s death so that Jus­tices Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer flanked Roberts. Breyer took the spot Gins­burg held when the court last gath­ered for a jus­tice’s me­mo­rial, in 2019 fol­low­ing the death of John Paul Stevens.

Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt of Wash­ing­ton, D.C., com­pared Gins­burg to a prophet who imag­ined a world of greater equal­ity and then worked to make it hap­pen.

“This was Jus­tice Gins­burg’s life’s work. To in­sist that the Con­sti­tu­tion de­liver on its prom­ise, that we the peo­ple would in­clude all the peo­ple. She car­ried out that work in ev­ery chap­ter of her life,” said Holtzblatt, whose hus­band, Ari, once worked as a law clerk to Gins­burg.

Out­side, some peo­ple wait­ing to pass by the cas­ket said they had driven through the night. One of those in line, Heather Set­zler, a physi­cian as­sis­tant from Raleigh, North Carolina, said she named her two cats Hil­lary Ruth and Kiki, in honor of Gins­burg’s child­hood nick­name.

“There was just some­thing about her. She was so diminu­tive yet turned out to be such a gi­ant,” Set­zler said, wear­ing a face mask adorned with small por­traits of Gins­burg.

Rachel Lin­der­man and Ry­chelle We­se­man of Olean, New York, trav­eled to the na­tion’s cap­i­tal be­cause they said they wanted to be counted among Gins­burg’s fol­low­ers and demon­strate how im­por­tant her legacy is to Amer­i­cans.

They said they were buoyed as they waited in line to be sur­rounded by peo­ple who felt the same way.

“I liked that I was with like-minded peo­ple,” Lin­der­man said. “I feel en­er­gized,.”

“Where we live, we’re usu­ally in the mi­nor­ity,” We­se­man said.

Prom­i­nent vis­i­tors Wed­nes­day in­cluded Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, along with former Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, who ap­pointed Gins­burg to the court in 1993, and former Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton, whom Gins­burg hoped would name her suc­ces­sor. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who traded in­sults with Gins­burg four years ago, was ex­pected to pay his re­spects on Thurs­day.

Since Gins­burg’s death Fri­day evening, peo­ple have been leav­ing flow­ers, notes, plac­ards and all man­ner of Gins­burg para­pher­na­lia out­side the court in trib­ute. Court work­ers cleared away the items and cleaned the court plaza and side­walk in ad­vance of Wed­nes­day’s cer­e­mony.

Inside, the en­trance to the court­room, along with Gins­burg’s chair and place on the bench next to Roberts, have been draped in black, a long­stand­ing court cus­tom. These visual signs of mourn­ing, which in years past have re­in­forced the sense of loss, will largely go un­seen this year. The court be­gins its new term Oct. 5, but the jus­tices will not be in the court­room and in­stead will hear ar­gu­ments by phone.

On Fri­day, Gins­burg will lie in state at the Capi­tol, the first woman to do so and only the sec­ond Supreme Court jus­tice af­ter Wil­liam Howard Taft. Taft had also been pres­i­dent. Rosa Parks, a pri­vate cit­i­zen not a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial, is the only woman who has lain in honor at the Capi­tol.

Gins­burg will be buried be­side her hus­band, Martin, in a pri­vate cer­e­mony at Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery next week. Martin Gins­burg died in 2010. She is sur­vived by her son and daugh­ter, four grand­chil­dren, two step-grand­chil­dren and a great-grand­child.

Gins­burg’s death has added an­other layer of tu­mult to an al­ready chaotic elec­tion year. Trump and Se­nate Repub­li­cans are plow­ing ahead with plans to have a new jus­tice on the bench, per­haps be­fore the Nov. 3 elec­tion.

Only Chief Jus­tice Roger Taney, who died in Oc­to­ber 1864, died closer to a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln waited un­til De­cem­ber to nom­i­nate his re­place­ment, Salmon Chase, who was con­firmed the same day.

When Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia, Gins­burg’s clos­est friend on the court, died un­ex­pect­edly in 2016, Repub­li­cans re­fused to act on Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s high-court nom­i­na­tion of Judge Mer­rick Gar­land.

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Ma­gana)

Mourn­ers pay their re­spects as Jus­tice Ruth Bader Gins­burg lies in re­pose un­der the Por­tico at the top of the front steps of the U.S. Supreme Court build­ing on Wed­nes­day in Wash­ing­ton. Gins­burg, 87, died of can­cer on Sept. 18.

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