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Legendary U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dies At 87

Ginsburg's liberal force on the court and fierce advocacy for women cemented her as a feminist icon with the nickname "Notorious RBG." In the days before her death, she told her granddaughter: "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, celebrating her 20th anniversary on the bench, is photographed in the West conference room at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday, August 30, 2013. | Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, celebrating her 20th anniversary on the bench, is photographed in the West conference room at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday, August 30, 2013. | Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Legendary U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose liberal force on the court and fierce advocacy for women cemented her as a feminist icon with the nickname “Notorious RBG,” has died at age 87.

She died of complications of metastatic pancreas cancer, the Supreme Court announced Friday night, and was “surrounded by her family at home in Washington, D.C."

“Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said in a statement. “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.”

Ginsburg’s death leaves an open seat on the Court, which has a conservative majority, fewer than 50 days before one of the most unconventional, consequential elections in modern U.S. history.

Ginsburg said in July that she’d been undergoing chemotherapy for a recurrence of cancer, but planned to remain on the nation’s highest court. Ginsburg had announced that she was cancer-free in January of this year. She has been treated four times for cancer, including pancreatic and colon cancer, most recently August 2019, the Washington Post reported. She was the Court’s oldest member and recognized as a leader of its liberal minority after a decades-long legal career spent advancing gender equality and women’s rights.

In recent years, she had been known for her increasingly fiery dissenting opinions and undiminished passion for women’s rights. In the days before her death, according to NPR, she told her granddaughter: "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."

Following news of her death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Republicans will move to fill her seat with a Trump appointee. Democratic leaders are calling for the seat to remain open until next year. 

Ginsburg was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated first in her class from Cornell University and studied law at Harvard and Columbia. She was the first woman on both the Harvard and Columbia Law Review. She graduated from Cornell in 1954, the same year she married Martin Ginsburg, also a lawyer, who she has credited with supporting her career during an era when women were often confined to domestic roles. The Ginsburgs had two children, Jane Ginsburg and James Steven Ginsburg. Martin died in 2010 from cancer and had an impressive legal career of his own, specializing in tax law.
 
She was appointed to the D.C. Appeals Court by Jimmy Carter in 1980, and became the second woman Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, appointed under Bill Clinton, in 1993. 

Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court William Rehnquist (R) administers the oath of office to newly-appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (L) as U.S. President Bill Clinton looks on 10 August 1993. Ginsburg is the 107th Supreme Court justice and the second woman to serve on the high court. | KORT DUCE/AFP via Getty Images

Her unparalleled and illustrious career has been chronicled in multiple recent films, including the documentary “RBG” and the drama “On the Basis Of Sex.” Off the court, she was also known as a passionate fan of the opera and as a diligent workout enthusiast. (Back in 2017, a young male reporter struggled to complete her routine.) 
Her ascendance into popular culture is in part due to a fan blog “Notorious R.B.G.” as well as a biography of the same title, authored by journalist Irin Carmon and lawyer Shana Knizhnik.

"In 1971, she was instrumental in launching the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, and served as the ACLU’s General Counsel from 1973–1980, and on the National Board of Directors from 1974–1980," a SCOTUS statement read. "She was appointed a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1980. During her more than 40 years as a Judge and a Justice, she was served by 159 law clerks."

In the Frontiero v. Richardson case in 1973, she said in her winning argument: “Sex like race is a visible, immutable characteristic bearing no necessary relationship to ability. Sex like race has been made the basis for unjustified or at least unproven assumptions, concerning an individual’s potential to perform or contribute to society.”

A private service will be held for Ginsburg at Arlington National Cemetery, according to a Supreme Court release.

Watch more about her legacy and how she became known as the "Notorious RBG." 

This archival video shows the moment Ginsburg was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice (to raucous applause) in 1993. 

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