Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Mourners camp overnight to honour Justice before she lies in repose on Supreme Court steps

Danielle Zoellner
·3 mins read
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's casket is carried up the Supreme Court steps on Wednesday morning  (AP)
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's casket is carried up the Supreme Court steps on Wednesday morning (AP)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg will return to the Supreme Court for the final time on Wednesday morning after serving on the United States’ highest court for 27 years.

Thousands of mourners, some of whom camped overnight on Tuesday, are anticipated to honour the Supreme Court justice as she lies in repose on the grand building’s steps starting on Wednesday.

Mourners will have the opportunity to file past Ginsburg’s casket at the location where justice built a reputation for being a proponent of equality and women’s rights as both a lawyer arguing before the Supreme Court and as a justice.

The justice’s family and close friends will first gather for a private ceremony in the Great Hall on Wednesday morning. Ginsburg’s casket will then move onto the Court’s steps to lie in repose for two days.

Supreme Court justices have previously lain in repose for one day, but it was decided to award Ginsburg the honour for two days given she was just the second woman to join the Court. Ginsburg’s popularity has also grown in recent years to become a feminist and cultural icon.

This will be the first time the eight remaining Supreme Court justices have gathered together in person since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March. The Court shut down in-person work, leaving the justices to hold meetings through the telephone.

Ginsburg’s casket is expected to arrive at 9:30pm EST on Wednesday morning. Supreme Court police will then carry her casket up the Court’s steps, which will be lined with more than one hundred former Ginsburg law clerks acting as honorary pallbearers for the occasion.

Chief Justice John Roberts will be waiting in the Great Hall with the other Supreme Court justices as her casket arrives and is placed on the Lincoln Catafalque, the platform on which President Abraham Lincoln´s coffin rested in the Capitol rotunda in 1865. Hanging nearby will be a 2016 portrait of Ginsburg by artist Constance P Beaty.

President Donald Trump has not indicated if he will be present to honour the justice ahead of him leaving Washington DC on Wednesday afternoon. He previously paid his respects when Justice John Paul Stevens died last year. His predecessor, President Barack Obama, honoured Justice Antonin Scalia by visiting the Court in 2016 following the justice’s death.

Other touches made for Ginsburg include the entrance to draping the courtroom, her chair, and her place on the court next to Roberts in black – a tradition long used to honour justices.

Her casket will then move to the Court’s steps for a public viewing from 11am to 10pm on Wednesday and 9am to 10pm on Thursday.

Then Ginsburg will lie in state at the Capitol on Friday, making her the first woman and only the second Supreme Court justice after William Howard Taft to receive the honour. Rosa Parks was the first woman to have lain in honour in the Capitol as a private citizen as opposed to a government official.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said there would be a ceremony for Ginsburg on Friday, but it would be for invited guests only due to the pandemic.

Ginsburg will be buried alongside her husband Martin Ginsburg, who died in 2010, during a private ceremony at Arlington National Ceremony next week. She is survived by her daughter and son, four grandchildren, two step-grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.

Ginsburg died from cancer at the age of 87 on Friday. Her death less than 50 days before the presidential election has launched a partisan battle between Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, with Republicans vowing to let Mr Trump nominate a replacement before November.

When Justice Scalia died unexpectedly in 2016, Republicans, who controlled the Senate, refused to act on President Obama’s Supreme Court pick, Judge Merrick Garland. At the time, the senators said that no Supreme Court pick should be up for consideration during an election year.

Republicans indicated this week they had enough votes to approve Mr Trump’s nominee, who the president said would be announced on Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report