US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an iconic champion of women’s rights, has died of cancer at the age of 87, the court said.
Ginsburg, the oldest justice and the second ever woman to sit on the Supreme Court, where she served for 27 years, was a legal pioneer advocating gender equality, reports Xinhua news agency.
She was appointed in 1993 by then President Bill Clinton and has over the years become the most senior member of the court’s liberal wing.
“Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement on Friday night.
“We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her — a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”
The vacancy now enables President Donald Trump to tap a replacement — the third Supreme Court justice nominee during his presidency — that may swing the bench further to the conservative side.
However, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said shortly after the announcement of Ginsburg’s death that the Senate should wait until the next president assumes office to fill the seat left by the late justice.
“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,” Schumer said in a tweet.
Trump reacted to Ginsburg’s death after an election rally in Minnesota on Friday night, saying: “I didn’t know that. She led an amazing life, what else can you say?”
Ginsburg has a long history of health problems, having been battling various cancers since 1999, when she was diagnosed with colon cancer.
She underwent a surgery for pancreatic cancer in 2009, had two cancerous nodules removed from her left lung in December 2018, and received additional treatment for the pancreatic tumor in August 2019.
Ginsburg told US media in early January that she was “cancer free”, but in July she was treated for liver cancer.
Over an illustrious legal career spanning six decades, Ginsburg attained unparalleled celebrity status for a jurist in the US, revered by liberals and conservatives alike, the BBC said in a report.
Born to Jewish immigrant parents in Brooklyn, New York City, in 1933, Ginsburg studied at Harvard Law School, where she was one of only nine women in a class of about 500 men.
In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Toward the end of her life, Ginsburg became a national icon. Due in part to her withering dissents, Ginsburg was dubbed the Notorious RBG by her army of fans online – a nod to the late rapper The Notorious BIG.
Former Presidents, veteran politicians and senior jurists were among those to mourn her death.
Former President Jimmy Carter called her a “truly great woman”, writing in a statement: “A powerful legal mind and a staunch advocate for gender equality, she has been a beacon of justice during her long and remarkable career. I was proud to have appointed her to the US Court of Appeals in 1980.”
“Justice Ginsburg paved the way for so many women, including me. There will never be another like her. Thank you RBG,” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tweeted.
Eric Trump, the son of President Trump, said Ginsburg was “a remarkable woman with an astonishing work ethic”.
“She was a warrior with true conviction and she has my absolute respect,” he tweeted.