A MATTER OF JUSTICE

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A judicial battle looms with Ginsburg’s passing, and Black leaders fear the loss of civil rights gains.

The casket of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the late Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, is carried into the Supreme Court building on Sept. 23. The people lining up on the steps of the building are her former clerks.

MICHAEL BROCHSTEIN/SIPA USA/TNS

BY BARRINGTON M. SALMON AND HAZEL TRICE EDNEY
TRICE EDNEY NEWS WIRE

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, spent 27 years on the nation’s top court.

U.S. SUPREME COURT

Civil rights leaders are alternating between sadness over the death of Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and deep concern about what her death could mean to the composition of the US Supreme Court – and ultimately what it could mean for freedom, justice and equality for Blacks, women and other historically oppressed people.

Ginsburg reportedly told her granddaughter on her deathbed, Sept. 18, that “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

But shortly after news of Ginsburg’s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced his intention to try to confirm Ginsburg’s replacement before the presidential election on Nov. 3.

‘Perfect storm’

“Justice Ginsburg performed a great sacrifice by not allowing herself to rest and selflessly stay and fighting to the very end,” said Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, a political commentator, public speaker and author. “Her dying wish was for her seat to not be filled. It was on her mind. What this means largely, is that we’re up the creek without a paddle. We know this because Trump is unscrupulous, has no principle, no integrity.”

She added, “We’re in perfect storm. We have the most unscrupulous president that we’ve known in recent history. The very same things can be said about McConnell who is even more dangerous. These two individuals are in power and have the power to shape the court. I would expect them to go ahead and try to put another Republican on the court.”

‘Passion for justice’

As legal minds expressed some of their worst fears, national civil rights representatives recalled the contributions of Ginsburg and what might now be lost.

“Justice Ginsburg’s 27-year tenure on the Supreme Court was marked by a passion for justice and the rule of the law,” said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP in a statement.

“Her long, remarkable record includes her legendary opinions involving disability rights in Olmstead v. LC, and gender equality in the military, the United States v. Virginia. She was also known for her powerful dissents, many of which she delivered from the bench.

These include dissents in the voting rights decision of Shelby County v. Holder, the gender equity case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire Company Co., and the affirmative action case of Ricci v. Stefano…Our nation has lost its north star for justice tonight.

“As we move forward in the weeks and months ahead, we must honor Justice  Ginsburg’s memory and extraordinary contributions and remember that the Supreme Court is the ultimate guardian of all of our civil rights and liberties.”

On voting rights

Melanie Campbell, president/CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and convenor of the Black Women’s Roundtable, pointed out how Ginsburg’s arguments will remain alive and provide groundwork for future civil rights battles.

“Justice Ginsburg’s powerful and foretelling dissent in Shelby County v. Holder laid bare the majority’s flaws in the decision that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was no longer needed as a deterrent to voter suppression,” Campbell wrote in a statement.

“In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg warned that ‘Race-based voting discrimination still exists’ and cautioned that gutting the act’s protections against voting discrimination was like ‘throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.’”

Campbell concluded, “As a result of the Court’s decision, voter suppression tactics have escalated in states across the country. The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation will honor the legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by continuing the fight for civil rights, social justice and equity for all.”

Other legal concerns

The National Bar Association (NBA), with its membership of thousands of Black lawyers, called Ginsburg “A truly great American” and “one of the most outstanding, compassionate crusaders for justice to ever sit on the Supreme Court of The United States.”

NBA President C.K. Hoffler said, “She was a champion for justice for all people, unwavering in her quest to ensure the rights and dignity of all Americans… Justice Ginsburg was my shero. She committed her entire life to social justice and continued the fight until she passed.”

Florida-based Attorney Kelly Charles-Collins fears that a farright court which would boast a 6-3 majority is going to tear down established law in the form of Brown v Board and the Voting Rights Act. Civil Rights and LGBTQ issues are not their favorites either, she said; also expressing concern for abortion rights.

“There’s a balancing, a costbenefit analysis,” Charles-Collins said. “It’s power versus their word. Do you think McConnell cares? They play chess all day long every day. We have to respect them for that.”

Remembering 2016

McConnell has earned Democrats’ ire because of the stunt he pulled in March 2016 when he blocked Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia who had died one month earlier.

McConnell’s argument then was that he would not allow any consideration of Obama’s pick because Americans should be allowed to vote, and the president choose.

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