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Ruth Bader Ginsberg: Iconic US Judge Leaves a Legacy Behind

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Zareen Afridi
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Ruth Bader Ginsberg was one of the two only women judges to preside over the US court. She recently passed away due to pancreatic cancer, aged 87. 

She was elected by the then president of US, Bill Clinton back in 1993. She belonged to the court’s liberal wing and fought for many historic rights like abortion rights, same-sex marriage, health rights, abortion rights, immigration and a plethora of present-day issues of US society. 

Joe Biden was among the first ones to mourn her death and praised her, saying that she was a giant in the legal profession. Biden said she was a beloved figure and that her absence will be missed considering the legacy that she leaves behind. President Obama too, said praiseworthy remarks for Ruth, for her character and what she stood by. Obama mentioned how she played both roles effortlessly, that of a litigator and a jurist and that why her fight for fairness among same sexes was not just about women empowerment but also the reform that the society as a whole can be. 

Ruth was a fierce warrior; she stood by women rights and empowerment and publicly communicated her ideas. That led to her rockstar personality as she is known today and was often referred to as ‘The Notorious R.B.G’. She was greeted by standing ovations and her views on fair laws ‘to be implemented with consistency and not by favouritism’ led to her being the favourite and adored jurist.

Ruth Bader always liked to keep herself busy, even when she was undergoing chemotherapy back in 2019. She told in an interview to Moment Magazine that she might serve up until she was 90 years old. 

Her most notable cases have been regarding Virginia Military Institute in 1996 which accepted candidature only from male applicants and female applicants were ‘banned’ from applying to the institute. Ruth fought vigorously, stating that it is unconstitutional to accept applications only from a single-gender. 

Often many times, Ruth herself faced challenges and unfairness. She was denied clerkship in 1959 after she had graduated from a law school. 

By the time of late 1980s and 1990s when the world had become more accepting of women’s rights, Ruth had reached a senior position and was often associated with the younger generation of judges and barristers. Of course, she easily mingled with co-judges often half her age and shared the same feministic and modern approach to fighting the law. Justice Elena Kagan had said in 2014 that ‘Ruth has easily become an ideal and an icon for the oncoming judges and it explains why’. Elena continues that Ruth had been instrumental in shaping laws in favour of women in the history of the US and that because of her, several female judges have been able to make their mark successfully. 

Bader had been severely ill from the past decade. She was first diagnosed with colon cancer in 1999. Then in 2009, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In the later years, she underwent heart surgery in 2014 and also received injuries from falls twice, in 2012 and 2018. In 2018 again she suffered from a ling related implication. The final blow came in 2020 when her stout and fragile body could not bear the blow of another cancer attack. She lived a life of illnesses in her latter years and fought earnestly, her will of fight and evenness propelling her forward.

Ruth Bader has been a classic, even an opera fan. She enjoyed opera nights at the Kennedy Centre and even played on stage for the role of ‘The Daughter of the Regiment’. During interviews, she had enounced once or twice, that she aspired to be an opera diva. Ruth had been close friends with fellow Justice Antonin Scalia. The famous opera composer Derric Wang was so fascinated by the friendship of these two justices that he composed an opera titled ‘Scalia/ Ginsberg’. This opera covered the opinions of Scalia and Ginsberg.  

Ginsberg had been popular in the Hollywood fraternity also. Actress Kate McKinnon portrayed Ginsberg in ‘Saturday Night Live’ where she responded with the news of the day. It portrayed the powerful image of RBG as a barrister and the actress aptly depicted her fierce side, winning the hearts of many. 

Ruth married Martin Ginsberg in 1954 who died in 2010. Ruth and Martin are survived by two children Jane and James.

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