‘Amer­i­can icon’: Pub­lic pays re­spects

Ruth Bader Gins­burg hon­ored by col­leagues, droves of mourn­ers

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WASH­ING­TON – As­so­ciate Jus­tice Ruth Bader Gins­burg re­turned to the Supreme Court for the fi­nal time Wed­nes­day un­der cir­cum­stances she and her le­gions of lib­eral al­lies and ad­mir­ers hoped would never hap­pen.

Even as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump read­ied a po­ten­tial re­place­ment for the jus­tice, who died Fri­day af­ter a lengthy bat­tle with cancer, Gins­burg’s fam­ily, close friends, more than 100 for­mer law clerks and col­leagues on the high court gath­ered for one last good­bye.

The flag-draped cas­ket of the 87year-old jus­tice was car­ried up the stairs to the Supreme Court’s Great

Hall, just out­side the court­room – its en­trance draped in black – where she served for 27 years. Her clerks, wear­ing black masks to guard against the coro­n­avirus, stood so­cially dis­tanced and in si­lence on the court­house plaza in a show of sol­i­dar­ity.

“To be born into a world that does not see you, that does not be­lieve in your po­ten­tial, that does not give you a path for op­por­tu­nity or a clear path for ed­u­ca­tion, and de­spite this to be able to see be­yond the world you are in, to imag­ine that some­thing can be dif­fer­ent – that is the job of a prophet,” said Rabbi Lau­ren Holtzblatt of Adas Is­rael Con­gre­ga­tion in Wash­ing­ton, whose hus­band, Ari, is a for­mer Gins­burg law clerk. “And it is the rare prophet who not only imag­ines a new world but also makes that new world a real­ity in her life­time. This was the bril­liance and vi­sion of Jus­tice Ruth Bader Gins­burg.”

Chief Jus­tice John Roberts, the only other speaker, said Gins­burg’s life “was one of the many ver­sions of the Amer­i­can dream.” The daugh­ter of a book­keeper, she rose to the high­est court in the land, writ­ing 483

ma­jor­ity opin­ions, con­cur­rences and dis­sents that “will steer the court for decades.”

Gins­burg dreamed of be­com­ing an opera vir­tu­oso, Roberts said, “but she be­came a rock star in­stead” – a ref­er­ence to the jus­tice’s emer­gence late in life as the “No­to­ri­ous RBG.”

“She found her stage, right be­hind me in our court­room,” the chief jus­tice said. Her voice was soft, he noted, “but when she spoke, peo­ple lis­tened.”

Af­ter the cer­e­mony, the cas­ket was placed at the front por­tico of the court for two days of pub­lic view­ing, dur­ing which so­cial dis­tanc­ing will be en­forced to guard against the pan­demic that has killed more than 200,000 in the U.S.

Among those who vis­ited were for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, who nom­i­nated Gins­burg to the Supreme Court in 1993, and Hil­lary Clin­ton, who prob­a­bly would have named Gins­burg’s suc­ces­sor had she won the pres­i­dency in 2016.

Many of those who trav­eled from through­out the na­tion waited more than 90 min­utes to pass by the cas­ket. The White House an­nounced that Trump would pay his re­spects Thurs­day.

Then the late jus­tice will be moved across the street to the U.S. Capitol, where on Fri­day, she will be­come the first woman to lie in state since the honor ini­tially was be­stowed on Henry Clay in 1852. At both lo­ca­tions, Gins­burg’s cas­ket will rest on the Lin­coln Catafalque, which sup­ported Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln’s cas­ket in the Capitol af­ter his as­sas­si­na­tion in 1865.

A pri­vate in­ter­ment ser­vice will be held next week at Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery, where Gins­burg will join her hus­band, Martin, who died in 2010.

‘She never quit’

It was a fa­mil­iar scene at the high court, where cur­rent and for­mer jus­tices and clerks have mourned with fam­i­lies and friends twice in the past four years. As­so­ciate Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia was lain in re­pose there in 2016. Re­tired As­so­ciate Jus­tice John Paul Stevens, who lived to be 99, re­ceived a sim­i­lar honor last year.

Out­side the court, hun­dreds of peo­ple gath­ered early in the morn­ing to pay their re­spects. Kate Blan­ton trav­eled from Columbia, South Carolina, to show her sup­port.

“There’s few peo­ple in our gen­er­a­tion that have had as great of an im­pact on equal rights and women’s rights as Ruth Bader Gins­burg,” Blan­ton said. “I think she’s just a bea­con of hope for women and ev­ery­one else, too.”

“It’s hum­bling that such a tiny lady with such a soft, gen­tle voice, with the strength of a su­per­hero, changed all of our lives,” said Jacki Gil­bert of Bal­ti­more. “She never quit.”

Rick and Rosa Hous­man of Wash­ing­ton were not de­terred by the long line of peo­ple. “To me, she’s just the ab­so­lute Amer­i­can icon for jus­tice, equal­ity and fem­i­nism in all its forms,” Rosa said.

Gins­burg’s death ig­nited a par­ti­san bat­tle over the high court va­cancy, one Repub­li­cans have longed to fill while they con­trol the White House and Se­nate. Trump has re­frained from nam­ing a nom­i­nee un­til most of Gins­burg’s cer­e­monies are com­pleted, but he has made no se­cret of his in­tent to act quickly as the Nov. 3 elec­tion ap­proaches.

The lead­ing can­di­date, fed­eral ap­peals court Judge Amy Coney Bar­rett of In­di­ana, was at the White House Mon­day and Tues­day for meet­ings. Other women, in­clud­ing fed­eral ap­peals court Judge Bar­bara Lagoa of Florida, are in con­tention. Trump said he’ll an­nounce his nom­i­nee at 5 p.m. Satur­day.

Se­nate Repub­li­cans are fall­ing into line be­hind the goal of con­firm­ing the nom­i­nee with un­usual speed by Elec­tion Day. The strictly par­ti­san plan has mo­bi­lized Democrats against the prospect of a far more con­ser­va­tive court, per­haps for decades to come. Both sides are spend­ing mil­lions of dol­lars in an ef­fort to seat or de­feat Trump’s nom­i­nee.

Three days of honor

For the next three days, it will be Gins­burg – the Brook­lyn na­tive who led the le­gal bat­tle for women’s equal­ity in the 1970s, then served for four decades on the na­tion’s two most pow­er­ful courts – who com­mands at­ten­tion.

A New York City na­tive who at­tended Har­vard Law School be­fore grad­u­at­ing from Columbia Law School, Gins­burg was a law pro­fes­sor at Columbia and Rut­gers be­fore Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter named her to the pow­er­ful U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the District of Columbia Cir­cuit in 1980. She was el­e­vated by Pres­i­dent Clin­ton in 1993, win­ning Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion by a vote of 96-3.

Dur­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sec­ond term, Gins­burg did not heed the ad­vice of some lib­eral al­lies to re­tire so Democrats could re­place her. Af­ter Trump’s up­set vic­tory in 2016, she bat­tled cancer and other ail­ments to re­main in of­fice, once par­tic­i­pat­ing in oral ar­gu­ments from her hos­pi­tal bed.

All eight sit­ting jus­tices and some of their spouses at­tended Wed­nes­day’s cer­e­mony in­side the oth­er­wise shut­tered court, along with re­tired As­so­ciate Jus­tice Anthony Kennedy and Mau­reen Scalia, Jus­tice Scalia’s widow. The only woman to pre­cede Gins­burg on the na­tion’s high­est bench, her close friend San­dra Day O’Con­nor, has been di­ag­nosed with Alzheimer’s dis­ease and could not be present.

The pub­lic will have the chance to pay their re­spects from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thurs­day un­der the por­tico at the top of the court­house steps.

 ?? JACK GRU­BER/USA TO­DAY ?? Ruth Bader Gins­burg’s cas­ket, car­ried by Supreme Court po­lice of­fi­cers, ar­rives at the high court for two days of pub­lic view­ing.
JACK GRU­BER/USA TO­DAY Ruth Bader Gins­burg’s cas­ket, car­ried by Supreme Court po­lice of­fi­cers, ar­rives at the high court for two days of pub­lic view­ing.
 ??  ?? Gins­burg
 ?? JACK GRU­BER/USA TO­DAY ?? The body of As­so­ciate Jus­tice Ruth Bader Gins­burg ar­rives at the U.S. Supreme Court to lie in re­pose at the top of the court’s front steps Wed­nes­day. The pub­lic can con­tinue to pay their re­spects Thurs­day.
JACK GRU­BER/USA TO­DAY The body of As­so­ciate Jus­tice Ruth Bader Gins­burg ar­rives at the U.S. Supreme Court to lie in re­pose at the top of the court’s front steps Wed­nes­day. The pub­lic can con­tinue to pay their re­spects Thurs­day.

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