Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave a final statement shortly before her death from complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer on Friday, saying she did not want her successor appointed to the Supreme Court until a new president had been installed, according to reports.
The 87-year-old dictated a statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera days before her death, according to NPR, saying: "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."
Ginsburg’s death, coming just six weeks before the 2020 presidential election, will have profound implications for the makeup of the US Supreme Court and the direction of the country.
A potential nomination by President Trump and confirmation by the Republican-led Senate would mark the third justice nominated during his presidency to the Supreme Court after conservatives Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. It would also be the most profound ideological shift in nearly 30 years since President H.W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to replace iconic civil rights activist Thurgood Marshall.
Last week, President Trump released a list of potential Supreme Court nominees, a move he used during the 2016 presidential campaign to lure conservative voters who said the issue was the important decision for them going into the November election. At that time there was a vacancy caused by the February 13 death of the court’s foremost conservative justice, Antonin Scalia.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to act on President Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland as Scalia’s replacement and the seat remained vacant until after Mr Trump's presidential victory.
Mr McConnell has said he would move to confirm a Trump nominee if there were a vacancy this year and President Trump is widely expected to push Ginsburg’s successor through the Republican-controlled Senate — and move that would push the already conservative court even further to the right with a 6-to-3 majority.
Trump has repeatedly asserted that a nomination under a Joe Biden presidency would be “so extremely far left that they could never withstand public scrutiny or receive acceptance.”
Appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, Ginsburg was the court's second female justice. She quickly positioned herself as a stalwart for women’s rights and progressive causes.
As a Supreme Court Justice, Ginsburg authored powerful dissents in cases that involved abortion, voting rights, and pay discrimination against women. She said some were aimed at swaying the opinions of her fellow conservatives judges while others were “an appeal to the intelligence of another day”.
Among her admirers, Ginsburg was a feminist icon, particularly with young women who affectionately called her the “Notorious RBG”.
Ginsburg suffered from health complications in recent years, that included five bouts of cancers, multiple falls, insertion of a stent to clear a blocked artery and assorted other hospitalizations after she turned 75.