Remembering Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The second woman on the nation’s highest court and a pioneer of women’s rights and gender equality has died at the age of 87.
15:38 | 09/19/20

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Transcript for Remembering Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
And good evening as we come on here in the west tonight and we begin here with the breaking headline this Friday evening the death of Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The second woman on the nation's highest court and a pioneer of women's rights and gender equality. We learned she died surrounded by family in Washington DC. Nominated by President Clinton in 1993 she remain the anchor of the liberal justices on the court. Ginsburg has had a number of health challenges in recent years balancing fighting them in each time returning to the court. But of course tonight we have learned she passed away from complications of pancreatic cancer she was 87 years old. So tonight here we look back at her life for legacy on the court and what this now means just 46 days until the presidential election. Our team is standing by for you tonight we begin here would ABC's juju Chang and justice Ginsburg the indelible mark she left on the court on the country. As a quiet but often fierce member of the court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a force to be reckoned with. I ask not president. He's simply he can feed. Off our next. Barely five feet tall but a liberal giant. Only the second female justice named on the Supreme Court serving there for more than a quarter century. Her path to the highest court in the land was not easy. As one of the few women at Harvard Law School she faced discrimination after graduating from Columbia in the fifties are tenacious this in the classroom highlighted in the Oscar nominated documentary on Ginsburg titled our BG produced by journalist Julie Cohen and Betsy west team. One of nine women in the class of 500. She was tied for first of a plot. And the big New York City law firms and just weren't hiring women not a law firms. In the entire city of me off. Feet from my employment charging forward she became a beloved law professor brought curse and worked to some lawyer for the ACLU. She mapped out a legal strategy to file lawsuits against gender bias in employment housing and government benefits. Men and women now persons people are big they and they should cap. Equally before them are you won't settle for putting Susan B. Anthony on the new dollars. When they would change things. There is how do you respond. Never in anger has certain undertone of that's that would have been self defeating. Al always as an opportunity. And to teach. I didn't see myself I was kind of in kindergarten teacher in the cities because intangibles. Didn't thinks that sex discrimination existed. Number one in the things had tried to plant in in my situation. Think about how you would like the rose to be freely daughters and granddaughters. She won five landmark cases which she argued on behalf of women in front of an all male benched long before she sat on. Ginsburg went on to serve as an appeals court judge in the nation's capital until that life changing nomination by President Bill Clinton in 1993. I am proud to nominate for associate justice of the Supreme Court. Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg that announcement may never of happened had it not been for the intense lobbying effort by a staunch feminist. Her husband Marty Ginsburg. He really felt she was brilliant and and she deserved it would be good for the country. And at her confirmation hearing chaired by then senator Joseph Biden the nominee did not shy away from her feminism spotlighting contentious topics like abortion rights he sees. Something central to a woman's. Life to her dignity. It's a decision. That she must make. The senate confirmed her in a sweeping 963. Vote she began quickly making her mark on historic cases. She's perhaps best known for a decision in 1996. That struck down a male only admissions policy at the Virginia Military Institute. Opening the door for women to study there it's justice Ginsburg writing an opinion that builds on the foundation that lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Essentially helpful way. I know that there was some people who Dina. Reaction. Didn't change and mandate. In response to Greece's. Wait and see you think. That women. Who become gradually. Premium. And in a landmark case on employment discrimination in 2007. Ginsburg wrote a powerful dissent the prompted congress to amend the laws. Named for the woman who filed the claim. The Lilly Ledbetter fair pay act became one of the first pieces of legislation signed into law by president Barack Obama. While on the Supreme Court justice Ginsburg was a consistently liberal voice on issues like abortion voting rights and the separation of church and state. Off the bench she was the first Supreme Court justice to perform a same sex marriage ceremony. Her tenure was not without controversy breaking tradition for a justice when Ginsburg spoke out against then candidate Donald Trump. Including to the New York Times calling him a quote baker saying I can't imagine what the country would be with Donald Trump is our president. Ginsburg later adding that her comments were quote ill advised. And that she regretted making them. But throughout it all justice Ginsburg won the respect of many conservatives. With her grasp of the law and her carefully crafted opinion. And as the court shifted to the right her scathing dissents elevated her to a pop culture icon. Inspiring legions of young fans and feminists. To emulate her famous outspoken as point five. Thankful. And her fitness routines earning her the hip hop inspired nickname notorious RBG. Well overall wolf profane. Burnished by her fashion statements are distinctive collars becoming her calling card. And this is what I used for financing the journey from. In this current insulin descending important. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg helped focus our country on its most basic values of justice and equality. Leaving a legacy of majority opinions and powerful dissents. For generations to come. Juju Chang on the life and legacy of justice Ginsburg tonight and I want to bring in ABC's Terry Moran whose witness he's covered the supreme court for years for us and Terry justice Ginsburg we know was 87 this country where for health battle she quietly fought them with dignity return to the court so many times obviously. The typical headline this evening for passing surrounded by her family. And Terry her influence on the court on this country. Campy overstate it. It can't David you're absolutely right Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Yeah he's a towering figure a person of diminutive stature in many ways in the wording comes to my mind when I think of her this slight woman who. Looked like she might blow away in a big win is strength. She was a form minimal legal intellect and a person of tremendous strength and the reason. She rose to such prominence inspiring so many I'm infuriating others I'm sure. It because she is one of those figures in our history in American history who expanded sometimes against fierce resistance. Our understanding of those bedrock American principles those bedrock constitutional principles. Of equality. And liberty and she did so as a as a lawyer in which time after time case after case she slowly broke down. Barriers of gender discrimination that when you look at them today almost laughed at and Ruth Ginsburg did that. And then on the court she became really alliant. Of the liberal. Wing of that court. In her later years writing in memorable descends the planning stage she hoped against what is the conservative counter revolution against the expansion. Of some of those concepts. She will live forever in the law and also in American culture because she's such an all American figure the daughter. The Jewish immigrant from Ukraine and her mom from a family of immigrants are mom died the day before she graduated from high school. And she soldiers on again and again. She is tough woman. A woman of great. Personality of great character. A woman memorable if you. Ever saw her or met her and a person who left her mark on American history. Terry Moran with us tonight and Terry stick with us here want to bring in our chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl as well as I pointed out the top tonight. A John this news comes just 46 days before the election and I couldn't help but to notice some social media Americans already reacting to the news tonight and somewhat upset by this discussion already turning to politics and what comes next but. That's what happens when it went what a story like this unfold so close to a presidential election and you've learned tonight John already. The president trump is expected to nominate a new Supreme Court justice in the coming days. Multiple sources familiar with the president's deliberations on this. Say that they expect. That the president will nominate a replacement for. Ruth Bader Ginsburg a despite the fact as you pointed out just 46. Days to go. They expect this choice will come in what will be announced in the coming days. One name that is a scene at the very top of the list. Is Amy coney Barrett 48 year old woman to to potentially. Be nominated to replace. Ruth Bader Ginsburg another name on wolf for par is Notre Dame I have heard who would be the first Asian American are on the court but but David. This is about to become this is about to explode under this campaign as the central. And most hard fought issue. Ruth Bader Ginsburg or as a liberal icon she's also. Are critical. Liberal voice on that court has banned replacing her would I tilt the balance of that court for a generation to come. And Justice Ginsberg knew that that would happen with her death job when a brilliant western thank you for that John let's bring in senior congressional correspondent there Bruce tonight because Mary this is now. A big test as John points out for the senate what will happen a divided nation a polarized country and every step the senate takes. What affect how their decisions are received by voters really on both sides of this you've learned tonight that the senate majority leader. Up Mitch McConnell is already talking new Republican lawmakers about. And next steps to take here. He and David of the Republican leader had been very clear that he is going to try and heal this the eat in the Republican could potentially get the 123 gates. Did you did before inauguration. It did the opposite approach from McConnell condition and 2016 when he famously refused to even consider. President Obama take Merrick. At the time eleven month report on duration O'Connell said voters should decide after the election but now McConnell there have been very different situation. Because unlike in 2016 now Republicans controlled both Hispanic and the White House. Democrats of course black. McConnell the argument now it hypocritical but of course Democrats have very little power here it takes just a simple majority to confirm a nominee and Republican pat back. The best tool Democrat happier. Many simply be to try and delay. At that it is not a given that Republicans can build it each farm crop at the big question Bernie will Republicans. Out of time to pull that off and what will vulnerable Republican due that there are handful of moderate Republican that tight race as they could potentially be swayed to oppose the president K. Remember it takes just four to collect and block whomever the president me. Senator Collins of Maine Susan Collins that hinted she might oppose reportedly saying that she simply think should grow to close. To the election to try and build this week and yet today report muted Ginsburg deck and broke nearly cal if they reportedly said she will not impart. And injected until after inauguration date the bid could be very close a Republican David we could be headed for real tight on capitol. But again to make this clear tonight Mary as you point out there the Republicans in the senate do have the votes though if they decide to move forward on this. Republican potentially handle both very very little young Democrats to block them Torre Berry burst with us tonight following this as well I do want to bring. The statement to the folks were watching at home from Chief Justice John Roberts tonight he said of justice Ginsburg our nation has lost to jurists of historic stature. We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague he wrote 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 that I do want to bring respected Terry Moran. Because in this moment this polarized moment in this country. A lot of people are gonna be turned off by the conversation. Turning so rapidly to politics Terry be at Ruth Bader Ginsburg was. A universally admired really I'm on both sides of the dial in Washington and by. Conservative justices she shared that bench of the court with for so many years Justice Scalia she was a dear friend to and Chief Justice John Roberts obviously. Of conservative member of the court with powerful words tonight for his colleague to colleague that they are mourning the loss of. That's a great point gave the Supreme Court really is one of those errors despite their disagreements. That does work together and away much of America doesn't she was. Much admired and beloved by many of her colleagues justice Antonin Scalia. Who died back in in 2016. And they were very good friends are coming up odd couple the two of them opera lovers they travel together they disagreed ferociously. And sometimes took on each other. In their opinions with what almost seemed like flaming on social media but remained. Very close friends a neck and your right as well. That her intellect there was nobody better prepared on the case and Ruth Bader Ginsburg she was a fine legal mind and everyone respected that. And also I think. Had to respect. Her story it is such an all American story somebody coming. You know from. New York City right not well to do who managed as I said to change American history. The world looks very different four women and for all of us because Ruth Bader Ginsburg and that ultimately is her legacy. Terry Moran Ruth Bader Ginsburg tonight I want to get back to our chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl and were monitoring some of the reaction pouring in. Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Former secretary of state as well reacting tonight saying Ruth Bader Ginsburg paved the way for so many women Hillary included she wrote in a tweet. Of course were waiting for word from president trump tonight have we heard anything from the White House. Other president was giving a speech in in Minnesota as the news broke we have not heard it we don't know if he's been informed yet I assume we will hear. Very soon some kind of a statement she is. She was though did liberal heart of the Supreme Court. But certainly an American icon or somebody who transcended politics so troubling here tribute from the president but David this will very quickly. I turned to perhaps the most ferocious. A political fight yet of the year right and you've been witnessing at forest on call our thanks to huge Terry Moran to Mary Bruce tonight. Our entire team standing by.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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