Crowds have gathered to pay tributes to iconic Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg following her death at the age of 87.
Emotional tributes have been paid to the women’s rights champion, whose death so close to a US Presidential election could open up a key battleground between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
Flowers were left outside the Supreme Court building in Washington DC as mourners paid their respects.
Ginsburg was a renowned liberal who famously branded Trump a “faker” and said he was guided by his ego.
The judge, a co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), was just the second woman ever appointed to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the US.
She was popularly known by her initials RBG, and emerged as an icon in popular culture in recent years.
An image of Ginsburg and the alternating messages “thank you” and “rest in power” were projected on the front of the New York State Civil Supreme Court building in Manhattan as Americans paid tribute.
The race to appoint a successor
Ginsburg had requested that her replacement on the Supreme Court was not appointed until there is a new President.
Just days before her death, she dictated a statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera, saying: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
But with Trump on the back foot and Republicans anxious about losing the White House and the US Senate, experts believe putting forward a candidate could divert criticism away from the incumbent.
If successful, it would also move the Supreme Court further to the right, giving it a 6-3 conservative majority.
The balance is currently 5-4 in favour of conservatives.
Trump has already appointed two conservatives to lifetime posts on the court, Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.
Timing could suit Donald Trump’s campaign, says strategist
For months, the election contest has centred on Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which has badly damaged his prospects for reelection as the US death toll nears 200,000.
However, Ginsburg’s death opens up the potential for Trump or Biden to choose a successor – who could rule on issues including abortion access, environmental regulations and the power of the presidency for a generation.
Strategists on both sides have seized on the moment to find an advantage.
Trump’s supporters see an opportunity to galvanise support beyond his most loyal core of backers, with Republican strategist Alex Conant saying: “It’s hard to see how this doesn’t help Trump politically.
“Biden wants this election to be a referendum on Trump. Now it’s going to be a referendum on whoever he nominates to the supreme court.”
Multiple Republicans close to the White House believe Mr Trump will likely nominate a woman.
“Any week Donald Trump doesn’t have to talk about coronavirus is a net positive for him,” said Joel Payne, a Democratic strategist who worked for 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“Historically, Republicans vote on the court. I think some Republicans will see this as the October surprise to gin up excitement in their base.”
Tributes paid to liberal icon
Figures from across the political spectrum have paid tribute to Ginsburg
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat, posted on Twitter : “Tonight, the flags are flying at half staff over the Capitol to honor the patriotism of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“Every woman and girl, and therefore every family, in America has benefitted from her brilliance.”
“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.”
“Today, our nation mourns the loss of a titan of the law,” Trump said in a statement, adding that Ginsburg’s decisions “have inspired all Americans, and generations of great legal minds.”
Trump, who as a presidential candidate in 2016 called on Ginsburg to resign and said “her mind is shot” after she criticized him in media interviews, did not mention any potential plans about nominating a replacement.