An Empty Seat in the US Supreme Court by Sophia Kouidou-Giles

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, March 15, 1933 – September 18, 2020

Sept 18, 2020  is a dark day for the country.  It is the day  Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at the age of 87, of metastatic pancreatic cancer. She has been our warrior for equality on the Supreme Court bench, our defender of equal rights. I joined the nation mourning the loss of a brilliant legal mind, sharing a sense of desperation for what now seems the loss of an enlightened person with a point of view not likely to be replaced. She has been a model of strength and persistence, a model of positive change. Among her firsts was being one of nine female law students among 500 at Cornell, graduating on top of her class, and taking on ACLU cases that established equality among men and women.     

Restrained, dignified, with dogged dedication to the legal principals she defended in victory or through dissent, RBG never stopped despite the loss of her husband and her own health challenges. She died on the dawn of Rosh Hashanah, on the first day of  the ten-days that end with Yom Kippur—the holiest day of the Jewish new year. What would this next year bring, without RBG?

Her departure brought masses of people outside the Supreme Court to remember and honor her. In the Court chamber her chair was draped in crepe, for this was the measure of  loss her colleagues felt. And as the country mourns her passing a war ensues about her replacement, a race that ignores her last wish: ‘My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,’ she told her granddaughter, Clara Spera.

The powers that be are set on finishing the succession process, selecting, nominating, and confirming her replacement before the November 4 election.  The country is in a division quandary for a position that is not political but aligns with the constitution and justice. I believe that the dignity of the office, the long-term impact of those holding the seats, calls for a deliberate process, not a rushed and ‘let’s get it done’ mode before the presidential elections that are about 40 days away as of this writing. Is this a time to rush through a very consequential process to determine a lifetime appointment when the people have no say in who makes the nomination?

Honoring her last wish would have been a tribute to RBG but what prevails is the grab for power. The signs are that success in this effort does not bode well for equality and women’s rights. But as Ruth said, the pendulum swings, and it will again.

About the contributor

Sophia Kouidou-Giles, born in Greece, resides in the USA. Her work has appeared in Voices, Persimmon Tree, Assay, The Raven's Perch and The Time Collection. Her poetry chapbook is Transitions and Passages. Her memoir, Sophia's Return, written in Greek and forthcoming in English is published by She Writes Press.

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