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Column: As MSU students reflect on an everlasting legacy, RBG's seat is being filled

October 12, 2020
An image of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Illustration by Daena Faustino).
An image of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Illustration by Daena Faustino). —

“She was just such a badass woman in a really badass job.”

These were MSU junior Emily Miller's words about the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who died on Friday, Sept. 18 after spending 27 years on the Supreme Court.

“I think that she definitely stood for a lot — to a lot of people — more than just being some woman on the Supreme Court who made these dissenting opinions and had this cool necklace to symbolize how she’s doing,” Miller said. “She meant so much to so many people because she fought for so many different things.”

A look at Ginsburg's life: What she believed and what she stood for

Ginsburg was born on March 15, 1933 in Brooklyn, New York. She always held education to a high standard, graduating at the top of her class from Cornell University in 1954. She did so again in 1959 at Columbia Law, this time after caring for her child and cancer-stricken husband while simultaneously studying at Harvard Law. At Harvard, she became the first ever female to work for the Harvard Law Review. 

“My mother told me to be a lady,” Ginsburg said. “And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.”

Ginsburg taught at Rutgers Law and Columbia Law before accepting her nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1980. In 1993, she accepted Bill Clinton’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

As a justice for the U.S. Supreme Court, she fought most notably for women’s rights. In the 1996 case United States v. Virginia, Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion, stating that it was unlawful to deny qualified women admission to the Virginia Military Institute. 

“Equality, for sure … She’s a symbol of equality for America I would say,” sophomore Mayher Sachdeva said in what she believed Ginsburg meant to the United States.

Ginsburg also stood for partnership. Although some of her colleagues thought and voted differently than her, she remained respectful, cooperative and friendly through it all. Her tight-knit relationship with former conservative Justice Antonin Scalia exemplified what working together, even while having conflicting opinions, should look like: fruitful and with merit. 

And during a time currently filled with bitter rivalry, maybe we should all take a page out of Ginsburg’s book. 

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you,” Ginsburg said.

Filling the seat: The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett and the differences she has from RBG

President Donald Trump nominated on Sept. 26 judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The move was applauded by Republicans and scowled at by Democrats. Many believe Barrett could be the one to push the Court toward a 6-3 conservative majority, which would allow a chance for the Court to overturn legislation supporting abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act.

But the deeper dilemma at the moment is, is nominating a justice during an election year allowed?

According to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, it is not. Or, at least that is what he said back in 2016 when the late Justice Antonin Scalia died during an election year, and former President Barack Obama tried to appoint Merrick Garland to the Court.

"The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice," McConnell said the day of Scalia's death. "Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president."

But, wait. If you're thinking to yourself, "That doesn't sound like what he's saying now," it's because it isn't.

McConnell tweeted on Oct. 2, "Just finished a great phone call with @POTUS. He's in good spirits and we talked business — especially how impressed Senators are with the qualifications of Judge Barrett. Full steam ahead with the fair, thorough, timely process that the nominee, the Court, & the country deserve."

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Politicians will always find a way to play politics, working to advance their own specific agenda ... even if that means having to "forget" strong assertions they seemed so staunch about a few years prior. That's true on both sides.

In talking about McConnell's decision to block Obama's nomination of Garland in 2016, junior Jessie Wasmund said, "If that's the precedent that we're going to set in America, it should be followed no matter who has the majority in the Senate."

On Monday, Oct. 12, Coney Barrett's nomination hearing began.

A topic of intense discussion in both the presidential debate and vice presidential debate, Trump's presidency moves forward with the nomination at an intense pace, in the face of COVID-19 not just threatening America, but the White House as well.

If Coney Barrett takes the seat, the Supreme Court would swing right.

As the New York Times said, she is rooted in catholic faith and one of the biggest questions this poses is what happens with Roe v. Wade, the case that gave women the right to have an abortion.

Right now, Coney Barrett's stance on Roe V. Wade may remain the same as when Trump nominated her to the appeals court in 2017, saying that it is settled, but many worry that when the time comes, she may have a change of heart.

With Coney Barrett taking a seat in the Supreme Court and succeeding RBG, Republicans would have the majority as well as the usual swinging votes.

This puts into question many things that RBG stood for, including immigration, health care and women and LGBTQ+ rights.

Ginsburg's last wish

According to NPR, Ginsburg told her granddaughter Clara Spera, "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."

"If RBG was currently standing in front of me right now, I would just tell her thank you," Wasmund said. "She did allow so much more rights for women that I wouldn't be able to enjoy right now if it wasn't for her."

To Wasmund's point, Ginsburg should be thanked. She should be thanked for the stride she took in fighting for a greater equity among all genders. Going against your very own words, Sen. McConnell, would bring a greater injustice to Ginsburg than it ever would justice to the Court.

Though the process is already started, Ginsburg's final request should be respected. It's not too late to wait.


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