Students weigh in on Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, legacy, and the open seat

Ruth Bader Ginsburg – Detail from Simmie Knox’s offical portrait of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg – via Wikimedia Commons

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sent shock waves through our nation. A champion for women’s rights, Ginsburg served on the high court from 1993 until her passing. She had been nominated to the Supreme Court by then-President Bill Clinton to replace Justice Byron White. She was a strong women’s rights advocate, nicknamed “Notorious RBG” for her direct and forceful opinions about cases that were argued in the Supreme Court. 

     When she died on September 18, the question of her seat being filled by President Trump was at the top of Americans’ minds. At the time the court was considered to be a 5-4 conservative majority with Ginsburg being one of the four liberal, minority justices. Chief Justice John Roberts is viewed by many as the swing vote in many of the cases that the Court rules on. The Constitution states that one of the many duties of the President of the United States is to nominate justices to the Supreme Court. 

     In 2016, President Obama, eight months before the election, nominated Merrick Garland. The majority-Republican Senate struck down his nomination, citing Obama being a “lame duck” president, meaning that he was at the end of his second term, with no way to be re-elected. President Trump meanwhile, is ending his first term. 

     “I think Obama being a lame-duck president changes the outlook on the topic, Trump’s finishing his first term, and it’s his job to nominate justices to the Supreme Court,” Third Former Luke Fesnak said.

poll by Austin Zhuang ’22

     Sixth Former Nachikethan Srinivasan disagrees; “I find the moves currently being taken by the Republican administration are hypocritical, but it’s nothing new to many of us who have been more or less politically aware of the last ten or so years.”

     Trump nominated the honorable Amy Coney Barrett, a graduate of Rhodes College, Notre Dame Law School, and served fifteen years as a law professor at Notre Dame Law School. In 2017 President Trump nominated her to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. During her confirmation hearing she participated in a notable confrontation with Senator Diane Feinstein of California,

      “The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s a concern,” Feinstein said at that September 2017 confirmation hearing. Feinstein was referring to Barrett’s strong religious beliefs; she is a devout Catholic, and Feinstein believed that would play a part in the rulings she would make on the cases argued before her. 

     Srinivasan agrees: he pointed to Barrett’s staunch conservative beliefs and her ties to religious groups that have clear views on how a relationship between a man and a woman should be. 

     “I don’t think this was a matter of Senator Feinstein ‘attacking Barrett,’ but questioning whether her views will reflect the ideals of a bench that is committed to making no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

“I think people can unfairly criticize strong religious beliefs. She’s intelligent, moral and quite competent. If you ask me, there’s no reason she shouldn’t be confirmed.”

Luke Fesnak ’24

      Luke Fesnak said, “I think people can unfairly criticize strong religious beliefs. She’s intelligent, moral and quite competent. If you ask me, there’s no reason she shouldn’t be confirmed.”  

     Barrett will most likely be approved for a confirmation hearing, but the real question is whether she is confirmed before the election, a Trump win will almost guarantee her confirmation, but a Trump loss may force Senate Republicans to try to force her through, something that would definitely be one of the most controversial political moves in U.S. history.