HOUSTON - After multiple battles with cancer, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died at the age of 87. The popular advocate for women's rights left a lasting impression on some Houstonians who got the chance to meet her.
Described as a guardian of liberty, in death, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves behind a glaringly empty pedestal.
“Very often a justice isn't fully appreciated during their lifetime. Only after they're off the bench, people start to realize what they had,” says constitutional law professor Josh Blackman of South Texas College of Law Houston.
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Years ago, the local professor once met with the idol of many. Ginsburg also provided insight into prominent Supreme Court cases to students of STCL Houston during a study abroad program in 2017.
“Justice Ginsburg took the time to speak to every single South Texas student one on one,” says Blackman. “She actually dug in and tried to get to know them. It truly was a once in a lifetime opportunity because now that opportunity is no longer with us.”
Ginsburg’s demure stature never stopped her from being a giant in the justice system as the second woman and first Jewish woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
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“Before she was Justice Ginsburg, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a lawyer and she litigated some of the most important gender equality cases before the Supreme Court and developed a strategy that proved really important,” adds Blackman. “At the time, the Supreme Court was all male. There were all men up there, and she had to find a way to craft arguments to persuade an all-male bench, and she was very successful in that front.”
But Ginsburg’s passing on Friday quickly took a political turn as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that he planned to push a Trump replacement to vote after refusing the same for an Obama appointee during the 2016 election year.
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Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner addressed the statement during a news conference Saturday.
"We should be paying tribute, and we should be pausing to recognize the contributions that she made. If you try to ram this through at this point in time when people are getting ready to go to the polls and vote- to do that is totally unacceptable,” he says.
The reversal has him and other local leaders promising to fight any appointment before the 2020 election.
“A precedent has been set. How dare you want to counter precedent on the basis of politics?” stated Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee during the opening of a children’s COVID-19 testing site at Drew Academy in northwest Houston.
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“We plan to do everything we can to adhere to precedent. How hurt I am to be in this discussion right now when all I want to do is pay tribute to the grandness of this jurist for the years of her service,” she adds.
It’s a replacement that could shift the scales of American power and fairness for years to come, and following Justice Ginsburg who became a pop culture crusader for gender equality, whenever appointed, the next up will have a mighty large seat to fill.