VIDEO: Mourners pay tribute outside U.S. Supreme Court as battle brews over RBG’s successor

People gather at the Supreme Court to honor the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
People gather at the Supreme Court to honor the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
A woman and young boy look at a shrine in front of the Supreme Court to honor the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
A mural in remembrance of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg covers plywood outside Blackfinn Ameripub, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

A solemn procession of ordinary Americans, many of them mothers with daughters in tow, left flowers, cards and tributes scrawled in chalk Monday as they publicly mourned the death of U.S. Supreme Court icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Across the street on Capitol Hill, in stark contrast to the peaceful, sun-dappled memorial growing outside the high court’s front steps, a titanic political battle was taking shape over Republican efforts to confirm her successor before the November election.

“A lot of us would sit around and have Ginsburg parties, where we would read her dissenting opinion, because we knew it was going to be that awesome,” said Yolanda Trotman, a lawyer and former judge from Charlotte, N.C.

Trotman scrambled to find colleagues to take over her cases so she could hop a flight to D.C. and visit the court in person in order to mark the memory and legacy of the diminutive legal giant known simply as RBG.

“It was really emotional for me, just knowing the enormity of not just the loss for the legal community, but what it means for a generation,” she said.

“It establishes how important elections are, because this” ⏤ she gestured at the court’s towering alabaster columns behind her ⏤ “is one of the reasons why elections have consequences.”

READ MORE: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

Like many who turned up Monday, Trotman described feeling dismay at how quickly the news about Ginsburg’s death Friday at the age of 87 turned into a political clash over a succession process that promises to change the shape of the court for a generation.

President Donald Trump, reportedly eager to add another conservative jurist to the court, promised Monday to name his nominee before the end of the week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to ensure a vote on that nominee before the end of the year.

“The Senate has more than sufficient time to process a nomination,” McConnell said on the floor of the chamber Monday. “History and precedent make that perfectly clear.”

Democrats, meanwhile, are promising to fight tooth and nail to ensure Ginsburg’s ultimate successor is nominated and confirmed after the Nov. 3 presidential election.

They point to the fact that in 2016, after the death of Antonin Scalia ⏤ a conservative Supreme Court judge who forged an unlikely bond of friendship with Ginsburg ⏤ Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham argued unequivocally that it would be up to the next president to name a replacement. “Use my words against me,” Graham famously said.

“Same scenario, but this time the benefit is for (Republicans), and not for the American people,” Trotman said. “The American people have a right to determine who’s going to sit in that seat based on who they elect on November the 3rd.”

Canadians, meanwhile, could be excused for wondering why the process of nominating Supreme Court members seems less politically fraught in their country than it is south of the border.

That’s in part thanks to the U.S. constitution, which ensures the American judiciary is a coequal branch of government, along with Congress and the White House, said Melissa Haussman, a political science professor at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Indeed, politics and justice are joined at the hip at the U.S. state level, where the vast majority of judges run for office and are elected.

The U.S. court has had judicial review powers over congressional law and presidential actions since 1803, as well as the ability to pass judgment on the constitutionality of state actions, she said.

It wasn’t until the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms that the court’s Canadian counterpart found itself with similar powers, Haussman said.

None of that means, of course, that politics don’t enter the picture in Canada. It just tends to happen behind the scenes, rather than under a public spotlight.

“I don’t think that that plays out necessarily on the floor of the House of Commons the way it plays out in these televised hearings of the U.S. Senate, and then in public debate. The nature of the process is very different.”

Outpourings of grief are another point of distinction.

Kathleen Miller and friend Kristen Krzyzewski, both having travelled from Baltimore to hold vigil in Ginsburg’s name, appeared close to tears as they contemplated the fallout from the coming political fight.

Miller pointed to Ginsburg’s friendship with Scalia, ideological polar opposites though they were, as a model for the nation.

“We need to get back to the relationship that that they had, we need to get back to that type of civility where we can have differences of opinions,” she said.

“They voted in life-changing ways, and they were still really good, solid friends. We need someone that’s going to help us to come back to that civility, really, because it’s there. It’s underneath. We all just want to start healing from so many different things that are happening in our country, in our nation and our world.”

READ MORE: As Democrats balk, Trump to make high court pick by Saturday

James McCarten, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Donald TrumpUSA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

North Island Votes. Campbell River Mirror graphic
Babchuk declared winner in North Island

Nearly three-quarters of votes counted and mail-in ballots still to come

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

Lou Champis showing off his voting sticker. (Zoe Ducklow)
Port Hardy votes!

Checking in with local voters after the ballots have been cast

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read