NEW YORK — With praise and setting the stage for a political fight, New Yorkers are reacting to the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The justice died of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer, the court announced Friday evening.
A “Born and Bred” New Yorker
She was a proud Brooklynite who didn’t shy away from her New York background:
“I am, as you know from my responses to your questionnaire, a Brooklynite — born and bred,” Ginsburg once said during her Senate confirmation hearing in 1993.
Before her time on the Supreme Court and becoming the pop culture icon the “Notorious RBG,” it all started in Brooklyn.
Ginsburg, 87, grew up on a humble home on East 9th Street in Midwood:
Born in 1933, she attended East Midwood Jewish Center. The center links in its website an essay she wrote on its synagogue bulletin about World War II when she was 13 years old.
Ginsburg graduated from James Madison High School in Midwood. Other famous alumni of the school include Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Megan Conn biked over to Ginsburg's home Friday night to place an American flag there in her memory.
“She was just an icon of Brooklyn and, you know, rose as high as you can rise to serve our country,” Conn said. “So I just wanted to commemorate all that she did up until the end and all the hard work she did throughout her life.”
Conn said Ginsburg dreamed larger than people wanted her to dream.
Ginsburg graduated from Columbia Law School at the top of her class in 1959. She returned in 1972 and made history as the first tenured female at the university.
During her eight years as a professor, she taught classes on sexual discrimination and the law, collaborated on casebooks on the subject, and advocated from women’s rights on campus.
In a statement, Columbia University said Ginsburg "opened the door."
The school honored her 25th anniversary of serving on the Supreme Court by publishing some formerly private papers that the school said was a testimony to her influence on the institute. She was invited back in 2018 and spoke to current law students about her time serving on the bench.
Some students who spoke with NY1 were visibly upset by the news.
"I'm really shook up by it," said one student. "I'm really, really scared about what will happen to Roe v. Wade. I'm really sad, just as a woman and a Columbia student, that she's dead."
"The first thing that came up was, our right to choose and how this affects us personally as women, as, you know, growing up in this country, something that just be taken away from us, that right, is terrifying," said another.
Students said Friday night they were in mourning, but wanted to continue her fight by voting in the election this upcoming November.
Many students told NY1 that the school should rename something on campus in Ginsburg’s honor, such as the law library.
Elected Officials and Celebrities Weigh in Ahead of Political Fight
Schumer called the anchor of the liberal wing of the Supreme Court a “giant in American history, a champion for justice, a trailblazer for women.”
But New York’s senior senator, like many elected officials on Friday who honored Ginsburg’s trailblazing legacy, also urged the U.S. Senate to not hold a confirmation vote for her replacement on the High Court so close to the presidential election. Election Day is less than 50 days away, and early voting has already begun in several states.
As the Democratic leader in the Senate, Schumer is set to play a significant role if there are confirmation hearings and a vote to confirm President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Schumer tweeted Friday night that the “American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
In a statement this evening, however, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell already confirmed he intends to hold a vote for Trump’s nominee.
Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo hailed Ginsburg as someone who broke barriers and leaves an “indelible mark on America.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio pointed to Ginsburg’s New York roots, saying “we lost an incomparable icon. A daughter of Brooklyn.”
The city announced that across the five boroughs flags, already at half-staff for victims of the coronavirus, will continue to fly half-staff in honor of Ginsburg.
Hillary Clinton — New York’s former senator who nearly was elected president in 2016 and would have had a chance to nominate a Supreme Court justice herself if she won — said Ginsburg paved the way for many women, including herself.
Kirsten Gillibrand, who replaced Clinton on the Senate, said she was devastated by the news of the justice’s passing, and praised her “extraordinary life” and said “she fought to ensure equal protection in our laws.”
Sanders, a son of Brooklyn and fellow James Madison High School alumnus, called Ginsburg “one of the great justices in modern American history.”
New York members of the U.S. House of Representatives also heaped praise on the life and legacy of the city-native, urged political participation, and implored the Senate not hold a confirmation vote yet.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Ginsburg was a “giant in the history of our nation,” and urged people to fight efforts to replace her seat on the court this year.
Rep. Adriano Espaillat said Ginsburg was a "protector of the Constitution that will be terribly missed in America."
He also denounced McConnell’s statement that he plans to hold a confirmation vote:
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries described Ginsburg as a brilliant legal mind who was able to “will America in a better direction” for women and for racial, social, and economic justice because of her values, empathy, and understanding of the Constitution.
Jeffries also lashed out at McConnell’s statement.
“Mitch McConnell is a rank hypocrite. He essentially stole a Supreme Court justice from President Barack Obama,” Jeffries said. “When Justice Scalia passed unexpectedly in February of 2016, that was 10 months before the date of the election, and he decided to block the ability of Barack Obama’s appointee to even be considered by the Senate. And yet, in a 180-degree turn, less than 50 days from an election, he’s already promising to try and jam a Supreme Court justice down the throats of the American people.”
The congressman called on the Senate to not hold a confirmation vote before the election, and allow the American people to give a referendum, by vote in November, on who should be elected president and in turn nominate Supreme Court justices.
Cynthia Nixon, an actress and former Democratic candidate for New York governor, echoed Jeffries’s call.
Several celebrities from New York praised Ginsburg as a trailblazer for women’s rights and urged people to get politically engaged this election season.
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