Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a stalwart liberal on the U.S. Supreme Court since 1993, died on Friday at age 87, the court said, giving President Donald Trump a chance to expand its conservative majority with a third appointment at a time of deep divisions in America with a presidential election looming.
Ginsburg, a Brooklyn native and champion of women’s rights who became an icon for American liberals, died at her home in Washington of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer, the court said in a statement. She was surrounded by her family, the court said.
Her departure could dramatically alter the ideological balance of the court, which currently has a 5-4 conservative majority, by moving it further to the right.
“Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement. “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.”
Trump, seeking re-election on Nov. 3, already has appointed two conservatives to lifetime posts on the court, Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. Supreme Court appointments require Senate confirmation, and Trump’s fellow Republicans control the chamber.
In 2016, following the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in February of that year, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland in March to the bench — but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to consider it, arguing it was too close to the presidential election. There are 46 days until the 2020 presidential election.
A private interment service will be held at Arlington National Cemetery, the court said, but did not specify a date.