Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was honored on Wednesday as a pioneer of women’s rights who brought the nation closer to its vision of equal justice through a storied career as a lawyer and on the bench.
In a short, simple and modest ceremony in keeping with her own reputation for humility, Justice Ginsburg’s family and fellow members of the Supreme Court paid their respects in the Great Hall of the building where she served for 27 years. Her coffin was then brought outside, where it will lay in repose for the next two days for Americans to bid farewell.
“Justice Ginsburg’s life was one of the many versions of the American dream,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said during the ceremony inside the building. “Her father was an immigrant from Odessa. Her mother was born four months after her family arrived from Poland. Her mother later worked as a bookkeeper in Brooklyn. Ruth used to ask what is the difference in a bookkeeper in Brooklyn and a Supreme Court justice. Her answer: one generation.”
The chief justice, who was the only one to speak other than the Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, recalled that Justice Ginsburg wanted to be an opera singer but pursued law only to find herself the subject of discrimination because of her sex at law school and in the work force. She went on to become perhaps the country’s leading advocate fighting that discrimination.
“She was not an opera star, but she found her stage right behind me in our courtroom,” the chief justice said. “There, she won famous victories that helped move our nation closer to equal justice under law, to the extent that women are now a majority in law schools, not simply a handful. Later, she became a star on the bench.”
He said her 483 opinions — majority, concurring and dissenting — would “steer the court for decades” to come. “They are written with the unaffected grace of precision,” he said. “Her voice in court and in our conference room was soft, but when she spoke, people listened. ”
The chief justice was joined by the other seven current members of the court, seated in order of seniority, as well as Anthony M. Kennedy, the retired justice, and several of their spouses, all wearing face masks and sitting apart in keeping with social-distancing guidelines because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The ceremony lasted 18 minutes from the time the coffin was brought into the hall by Supreme Court police officers serving as pallbearers. Justice Ginsburg’s former clerks lined the steps of the court building before the ceremony and as the coffin was placed on the portico while visitors paying their respects filed past at the bottom of the stairs.
Hundreds of mourners, some of whom had traveled great distances, lined the street outside the Supreme Court to say goodbye to Justice Ginsburg.
Each visitor had her own story about the impact the justice had made on her life.
For Carolyn Curry Tallman, 51, who wore a mask emblazoned with Justice Ginsburg’s face, and her friend Renee Bobbitt, 43, the justice represented a trailblazer who not only made their own careers possible but paved a future for their daughters.
“We’re both mothers to daughters,” Ms. Curry Tallman said. “We’re here for them.”
The friends, from Merritt Island, Fla., had been lamenting the loss of Ms. Ginsburg on Tuesday morning when they decided to fly to Washington to honor her and booked an evening flight.
“We’re here for the history we wanted to witness,” said Ms. Curry Tallman, a compliance officer at an investment bank. “I’ve had an almost 30-year career in Wall Street, and I don’t think I would have had six months without her; I would never have gotten my foot in the door.”
For Lara Gambony, 52, and Kathleen Dungan, 57, honoring Ms. Ginsburg was a tribute to their mothers.
“It’s not only for ourselves but for my mother’s generation,” Ms. Gambony said, holding an American flag and choking back tears. “She forced the courts to see us as human, and that we had brains and we deserve our full rights.”
The two friends drove from Grayslake, Ill., to be at the Supreme Court early Wednesday.
“She really has helped bring women along. She’s a hero,” Ms. Dungan said. “We came out of respect and love for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This is still our country.”
Tonya Wells, 51, in a mask with an image of the justice, flew from Grosse Pointe, Mich., with her daughter on Tuesday night to pay their respects. Choking up, Ms. Wells said that the justice’s death had prompted her own self-reflection about how to honor her legacy and spurred her to volunteer more with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign.
“I just felt the sense that I was compelled to be here,” she said. “R.B.G. is just such a representation of goodness and justice and a person who was willing to give her entire life to making things better for people.”
Her daughter Katherine Nottmeier, 17, chimed in that as a young woman, she was fearful of a Supreme Court without Justice Ginsburg.
“It’s definitely scary,” she said. “I feel like my rights could be taken away at any point.”
Brenna Means, 26, from Potomac, Md., said she grew up in Washington reading and learning from Justice Ginsburg’s opinions. She hoped that the response to the justice’s death would show the Trump administration and the Senate that the Supreme Court needed balance, not a strong conservative justice.
Shortly after 9:30 a.m., Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Friday at 87, made a final trip to the Supreme Court, starting three days of extraordinary honors for a transformative figure in American law. Her coffin was carried up the court’s grand marble steps by the Supreme Court police, flanked by lines of the justice’s former law clerks — spread out for social distance — who served as honorary pallbearers.
Justice Ginsburg’s coffin rests on a catafalque, on loan from Congress, that once held President Abraham Lincoln’s remains.
Here’s the schedule for the rest of the events to honor her:
Justice Ginsburg lies in repose outside the courthouse, under the portico at the top of the front steps. The public is invited to pay its respects from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday and again from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday. The court requires masks and social distancing.
President Trump is expected to pay his respects at the court on Thursday.
On Friday, Justice Ginsburg will lie in state in the Capitol, an unusual honor for a Supreme Court justice and one that has never before been granted to a woman. There will be a ceremony to honor her.
She is expected to be buried next week in a private ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, where her husband, Martin D. Ginsburg, was buried in 2010.
Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt from Adas Israel Congregation in Washington honored Justice Ginsburg as “a path-marking role model to women and girl of all ages” during a private ceremony for family, clerks and friends in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court.
“Today we stand in mourning of an American hero,” Rabbi Holtzblatt said, standing before Justice Ginsburg’s flag-draped coffin and in front of an oil portrait of her flanked with flowers as mourners looked on.
After chanting the 23rd Psalm, Adonai Roi — a traditional Jewish song of mourning — in Hebrew and English, the rabbi eulogized Justice Ginsburg as a pioneering woman who had left a lasting legacy in the law and in generations of women who benefited from her example.
“To be born into a world that does not see you, that does not believe in your potential, that does not give you a path for opportunity or a clear path for education — and despite this, to be able to see beyond the world you are in, to imagine that something can be different — that is the job of a prophet,” Rabbi Holtzblatt said. “It’s the rare prophet who not only imagines a new world, but also makes that new world a reality in her lifetime. This was the brilliance and vision of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”
The rabbi described Justice Ginsburg’s “life’s work: to insist that the Constitution deliver on its promise — that ‘We the people’ would include all the people.”
“Nothing could stop Justice Ginsburg’s unflagging devotion to this project, not even cancer,” said Rabbi Holtzblatt, whose husband, Ari Holtzblatt, clerked for Justice Ginsburg from 2014 to 2015.
As mourners stood in the marble hall, the rabbi chanted a Jewish prayer of remembrance and mercy, “El Malei Rachamim” (God Full of Compassion).
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. spoke of Justice Ginsburg as a version of the American dream, the daughter of immigrants.
“It has been said that Ruth wanted to be an opera virtuoso but became a rock star instead,” he said. “But she chose the law. Subjected to discrimination in law school and the job market because she was a woman.”
Underscoring the importance of reaching across ideological divides at a particularly searing moment, Chief Justice Roberts talked about Justice Ginsburg’s friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016 and was a member of the conservative wing of the court, and recalled them riding an elephant together in India.
“In the photograph, she’s riding with a dear friend, a friend with totally divergent views,” Justice Roberts said. “There’s no indication in the photo that either was poised to push the other off.”
A small army of Justice Ginsburg’s former law clerks lined the steps of the Supreme Court as honorary pallbearers to see their former boss return to the court to lie in repose.
Over her 27 years on the court, Justice Ginsburg hired more than 100 clerks, generally just a year out of law school, for yearlong apprenticeships, and they were devoted to her. Though their careers have scattered them around the nation and the world, very few of them seemed to be missing on Wednesday.
Senator Mitt Romney of Utah said on Tuesday that he would back President Trump’s push to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, cementing all but monolithic Republican support six weeks before the presidential election for confirming a new justice who would tilt the court decisively to the right.
Mr. Romney’s decision capped off an extraordinarily swift and enthusiastic rally by Republicans around Mr. Trump’s position that underscored his iron grip on the party four years into his presidency. But it also reflected the political bargain that has been driving Republicans for much of the past four years.
Republican senators have loyally stood behind the president at every turn, even as he trampled party principles, shattered institutional norms and made crass statements — all in the service of empowering their own party to install a generation of conservative judges in the nation’s federal courts.
Now, with the biggest prize of all in reach — a third seat further tipping the Supreme Court to the right — they are rushing to collect on their bet, even if it is the last thing they do before they lose their Senate majority, Mr. Trump loses the presidency, or both.
With Mr. Trump planning to wait until Saturday to announce his nominee at the White House, Senate leaders remained publicly undecided about whether to try to rush through a confirmation vote before the election on Nov. 3. But Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have begun privately making preparations for a confirmation process that could play out in as little as a month, a drastically abbreviated timeline compared with other recent Supreme Court nominees.
Democrats, conceding that they did not have the power to stop it, unleashed a torrent of anger and parliamentary tactics intended to disrupt Senate business. They accused Republicans of gross hypocrisy, pointing to their refusal in early 2016 to consider Judge Merrick B. Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, because it was an election year.
“They are fighting to reverse Justice Ginsburg’s legacy, not honor it,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader. He made a point on the Senate floor on Wednesday morning of formally inquiring whether a Supreme Court justice had ever been confirmed in a presidential election year between July and Election Day. (Official documents “do not show such a precedent,” said Senator Kelly Loeffler, Republican of Georgia, who was presiding over the Senate at the time.)
The partisan rancor extended to a nonbinding resolution honoring Justice Ginsburg’s life, which failed to pass on Tuesday because Democrats sought to include language in the measure recognizing her wish that the next president select her successor.
“For the Democratic leader, two things qualify as a crisis when it comes to the courts,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said on the Senate floor on Wednesday. “The sky is falling when a Democratic president does not get to confirm every last judge he or she wants, and the sky is falling when a Republican president gets to confirm any — any — judges.”
By Tuesday, it appeared that Republican leaders and Mr. Trump would hold defections in their own party to just two: Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, who have said they would not support filling the vacancy so close to the election.
At the White House, Mr. Trump and his advisers continued to contemplate a handful of possible nominees, all women, before the announcement on Saturday. Mr. McConnell, who has been the architect of Republicans’ record-breaking success in filling the courts, said the party would lay out a timeline for the confirmation process as soon as Mr. Trump settled on his pick.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a child of Brooklyn long before she was Notorious — daughter of Jewish immigrants, graduate of P.S. 238 and James Madison High School (class of 1950), cheerleader known as Kiki Bader, member of the East Midwood Jewish Center.
She lived on the first floor of a two-story house on East Ninth Street in the multiethnic Midwood neighborhood and fed her mind at the local public library branch, upstairs from a Chinese restaurant and a beauty parlor.
“She’s part of the folklore of the community,” said Joseph Dorinson, who lives in the neighborhood and has taught at James Madison. “My neighbor’s brother dated her.”
Howard Teich, the founding chairman of the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative, said Justice Ginsburg resonated so profoundly with Brooklynites — the elders who followed her judicial career and the young people who loved the pop icon — because she represented the values of her block.
“It’s a place that lends itself to the values of modesty and people living with each other, and that has lasted her through her lifetime,” he said. As an emblem of pride, he added, “she’s singular in terms of who she was.”
Over the weekend, as news spread of Justice Ginsburg’s death on Friday, makeshift memorials of candles, signs, flowers and even an R.B.G. action figure went up outside James Madison High School and her childhood home. Hundreds gathered Saturday night outside the courthouse in Foley Square in Manhattan, holding candles and singing the civil rights anthem “Woke Up This Morning With My Mind Stayed on Freedom,” and a vigil was also held outside Kings County Supreme Court. Handwritten signs in different parts of Brooklyn urged neighbors to honor her legacy by voting.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the state would erect a statue in her honor in Brooklyn. It will be only the fifth statue that Mr. Cuomo’s administration has created since he took office in 2011.
And over the weekend, state monuments were bathed in blue light, her favorite color. At the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the display board posted her encouragement: “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and a pioneering advocate for women’s rights, who in her ninth decade became a much younger generation’s unlikely cultural icon, died on Friday at her home in Washington. She was 87.
The cause was complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer, the Supreme Court said.
When Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired in January 2006, Justice Ginsburg was for a time the only woman on the Supreme Court — hardly a testament to the revolution in the legal status of women that she had helped bring about in her career as a litigator and strategist.
Her years as the solitary female justice were “the worst times,” she recalled in a 2014 interview. “The image to the public entering the courtroom was eight men, of a certain size, and then this little woman sitting to the side. That was not a good image for the public to see.” Eventually she was joined by two other women, both named by President Barack Obama: Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Elena Kagan in 2010.
After the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens in 2010, whom Justice Kagan succeeded, Justice Ginsburg became the senior member and de facto leader of a four-justice liberal bloc, consisting of the three female justices and Justice Stephen G. Breyer.
Justice Ginsburg’s pointed and powerful dissenting opinions, usually speaking for all four, attracted growing attention as the court turned further to the right. A law student, Shana Knizhnik, anointed her the Notorious R.B.G., a play on the name of the Notorious B.I.G., a famous rapper who was Brooklyn-born, like the justice. Soon the name, and Justice Ginsburg’s image — her expression serene yet severe, a frilly lace collar adorning her black judicial robe, her eyes framed by oversize glasses and a gold crown perched at a rakish angle.
Young women had the image tattooed on their arms; daughters were dressed in R.B.G. costumes for Halloween. “You Can’t Spell Truth Without Ruth” appeared on bumper stickers and T-shirts. A biography, “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” by Irin Carmon and Ms. Knizhnik, reached the best-seller list the day after its publication in 2015, and the next year, Simon & Schuster brought out a Ginsburg biography for children with the title “I Dissent.” A documentary film of her life was a surprise box office hit in the summer of 2018, and a Hollywood biopic centered on her first sex discrimination court case opened on Christmas Day that year.
Scholars of the culture searched for an explanation for the phenomenon. Dahlia Lithwick, writing in The Atlantic in early 2019, offered this observation: “Today, more than ever, women starved for models of female influence, authenticity, dignity and voice hold up an octogenarian justice as the embodiment of hope for an empowered future.”