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Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dying wish was to not be 'replaced' during an election year

There's some precedent for delaying a Supreme Court nomination during a president's final year in office.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, George Spera, Jane Ginsburg, Martin Ginsburg, James Ginsburg, Clara Spera, Paul Spera
Doug Mills / AP
/ Source: TODAY

Just days before passing away from complications of metastatic pancreas cancer, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dictated a final political statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera.

"My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed," Ginsburg told her, according to NPR, who first reported the esteemed justice's death.

Spera herself is a lawyer and women's rights activist. In 2018, she wrote a piece for Glamour about her relationship with Ginsburg.

"You may know her as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or affectionately as the Notorious RBG, but to me she's Bubbie," Spera wrote. "Bubbie with whom I spend most High Holy Days. Bubbie who took me to see 'The Book of Mormon,' where we both laughed until we cried. Bubbie who loves going to the movies. Bubbie at whom I get a kick out of poking fun. Just a Bubbie like any other."

Obama Delivers State Of The Union Address To Joint Session Of Congress
President Barack Obama greets Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer before the State of the Union address on Jan. 25, 2011 in Washington, DC.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Ginsburg passed away Friday night, according to a press release shared by the Supreme Court, surrounded by family at her home in Washington, D.C.

In a statement, Chief Justice John G. Roberts said, "Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature. 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."

There is some precedent to delaying a Supreme Court judge appointment during an election year.

In 2016, after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, then-President Barack Obama named Merrick Garland, the chief judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to fill the empty seat. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-AL) announced that any appointment by the sitting president to be null and void. Garland was never confirmed, and in 2017 the seat was filled by Neil Gorsuch.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Portrait of Ruth Ginsburg, filed 1977.Bettmann Archive

In 1992, Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden urged the Senate to delay considering a Supreme Court nominee until after the year's presidential election, saying at the time that "Senate considerations of a nominee under these circumstances is not fair to the president, to the nominee, or to the Senate itself."

It doesn't look like Ginsburg will be getting her dying wish. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Friday night that he intends to allow for a floor vote in the Senate to confirm a new nominee made by President Donald Trump to replace the vacancy.

"In the last midterm election before Justice Scalia's death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president's second term. We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president's Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year," he said.

He continued, "By contrast, Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise. President Trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate."

There has been little information yet about who could potentially hold Ginsburg's seat, though President Donald J. Trump released a shortlist of potential nominees just last week.

According to the press release from the Supreme Court, a private interment service for Ginsburg will be held at Arlington National Cemetery.