WASHINGTON – Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke in the last days before her death about her “fervent” wish that her seat remain unfilled until another president was in office.
Ginsburg died Friday at the age of 87 from complications of metastatic pancreas cancer.
NPR reports that Ginsburg said in a statement dictated to granddaughter Clara Spera, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
“If there is one iron rule that the court tries to follow more than any other, it is that the justices do all that they can to protect their institution from political attacks during presidential election years when public scrutiny of government is heightened,” Artemus Ward, a political scientist at Northern Illinois University told the Associated Press in early August after Ginsburg waited four months to reveal that her cancer had returned.
Ginsburg foresaw the upcoming political battle over her seat, as her death removes a liberal voice from the Supreme Court.
Justice John Roberts, whose voting record is generally conservative, sided with the liberal wing of the court in recent decisions about the so-called DREAMers, abortion and bans on church gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Without Ginsburg, that majority might not have been possible, even with Justice Roberts’ vote. If the Trump administration succeeds in appointing her replacement, conservatives on the court would outnumber liberals 6-3.
Within hours of news breaking that Ginsburg had died, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement indicating that a Trump Supreme Court nominee will receive vote by full the Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Friday night that Ginsburg’s seat shouldn’t be filled until the following year, using the exact words that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) tweeted in 2016.
When Scalia died in 2016, also an election year, McConnell refused to act on Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to fill the opening. The seat remained vacant until after Trump’s surprising presidential victory.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.