The U.S. Supreme Court has nine lifetime appointees. With the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, only three still belong to the liberal camp. The race for successor is already on.
The silent commemoration of an icon of American jurisprudence did not last a day. By then, the debate was already raging about the successor to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was considered the reliable voice of liberal America on the Supreme Court, the highest U.S. court. It was triggered by President Donald Trump's promise to fill the empty bench as soon as possible.
"It's going to be a woman," Trump announced Saturday (local time). Via Twitter, he reiterated he would not wait long to make a decision. Already in the coming days he plans to meet potential female candidates. Just recently, in light of Ginsburg's serious cancer, he unveiled a list of names he believes could be considered. According to reports, that list includes the judge at 7. Federal appeals court judge, Amy Coney Barrett, at top.
Catholic and mother of seven
According to the report, the Catholic and mother of seven was already in the conversation during the last vacancy in 2018. At the time, Trump had chosen Brett Kavanaugh "to save her for Ginsburg," the president confided to senior aides. Barrett worked as a young jurist on the staff of the late Anthony Scalia, who died in 2016 and had the status for conservative jurisprudence in the U.S. that the now-departed Ginsburg enjoys on the liberal side.
That Scalia, a Catholic, and Ginsburg, a Jew, shared a close personal friendship despite their professional differences may suggest that even a nomination from Barrett is no guarantee Trump will get the Supreme Court entirely on his side. Working against the 48-year-old is her only brief tenure on the federal appeals court, for which the law professor from the Catholic University of Notre Dame in Indiana was only confirmed in 2017.
Promising candidate from Cuba
Another promising candidate appears to be Cuban-born lawyer Barbara Lagoa. The 52-year-old was the first Hispanic justice on the Florida state Supreme Court, and observers say she could build on broader support.
But no matter who Trump ends up putting in the race: A gauntlet awaits each candidate two months before the presidential election. Especially since the president is defying Ginsburg's last will and testament, which she gave to her granddaughter Clara Spera on her deathbed. "My most fervent wish is that my judgeship not be filled until a new president is sworn in."
Wait until after the elections?
That would be in line with the standards set by Senate leader Mitch McConnell when he refused to hear Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, after Scalia's death ten months before the November 2016 elections. "Let the voters decide on the president and let the president choose the judge," on which the Senate would then cast its vote, the Republican justified his stance at the time. Trump's challenger Joe Biden did not hesitate to remind McConnell of that now.
The latter is under prere not only because of his own re-election campaign in Kentucky, but also because of the narrow Republican majority of only 53 to 47 votes in the Senate. There will be "a vote on President Trump's nominee," McConnell announced.
Admiration for Ginsburg
In all of this, the historical dimension of Ginsburg's 27-year tenure as the second female trial judge in U.S. history almost fades into the background. Generations of women admired "RBG" for her fight for equality. Many Christians chafed at her because Ginsburg was a staunch advocate for penalty-free access to abortion and a proponent of same-sex marriage. Siding with the church on its rulings on the death penalty, immigration, and the environment, Ginsburg.
The Jewish community in the U.S. mourns the loss of a relative who had a phrase from the fifth book of Moses framed in her office: "Righteousness, righteousness – thou shalt pursue it." A goal she had dedicated herself to until her death Friday.