Justices, visitors pay tribute to Ginsburg in ceremony at Supreme Court.
WASHINGTON — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was honored Wednesday as a pioneer of women’s rights who brought the nation closer to its vision of equal justice through a storied career as a lawyer and on the bench.
In a short, simple and modest ceremony in keeping with her own reputation for humility, Ginsburg’s family and fellow members of the Supreme Court paid their respects in the Great Hall of the building where she served for 27 years. Her coffin was then brought outside, where she will lie in repose as Americans bid farewell over the next two days.
“Justice Ginsburg’s life was one of the many versions of the American dream,” Chief Justice John Roberts said during the ceremony inside the building. “Her father was an immigrant from Odessa. Her mother was born four months after her family arrived from Poland. Her mother later worked as a bookkeeper in Brooklyn. Ruth used to ask what is the difference in a bookkeeper in Brooklyn and a Supreme Court justice. Her answer: one generation.”
The chief justice, who was the only one to speak other than Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, recalled that Ginsburg wanted to be an opera singer but pursued law only to find herself the subject of discrimination because of her sex at law school and in the workforce. She went on to become perhaps the country’s leading advocate fighting that discrimination.
“She was not an opera star, but she found her stage right behind me in our courtroom,” Roberts said. “There, she won famous victories that helped move our nation closer to equal justice under law, to the extent that women are now a majority in law schools, not simply a handful. Later, she became a star on the bench.”
He said her 483 opinions — majority, concurring and dissenting — would “steer the court for decades” to come.
“They are written with the unaffected grace of precision,” he said. “Her voice in court and in our conference room was soft, but when she spoke, people listened.”
The chief justice was joined by the other seven current members of the court, seated in order of seniority, as well as Anthony Kennedy, the retired justice, and several of their spouses, all wearing face masks and sitting apart in keeping with guidelines because of the pandemic.
The ceremony lasted 18 minutes from the time the coffin was brought into the hall by Supreme Court police officers serving as pallbearers. Ginsburg’s former clerks lined the steps of the court building before the ceremony and as the coffin was placed on the portico while visitors paying their respects filed past at the bottom of the stairs.
Police officers carry the casket of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the front of the Supreme Court for two days of public viewing.