Like many other people from varied walks of life, I was most disheartened, as well as both upset and anxious, about the passing of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18.
I was disheartened because my limited contact with her in a professor-student relationship during my years at Rutgers Law School in Newark from 1968 to 1971 came rushing back to me. There is warmth about those memories, there are smiles — and they also reinforce the lessons she imparted, both in the classroom and by example.
I was upset and anxious because of the unfortunate and difficult-to-fully-grasp immediacy of the presidential and Republican efforts to unilaterally, and yes, purely politically, even draconianally, and blindly rush to seize the moment. It’s a misguided effort born out of the desire to erase her stellar legacy as a committed champion for fairness and justice for all, regardless of position in our society. This filled me with shock about what the future of our jurisprudence may hold.
Indeed, while I do not subscribe to the view that the deliberate, thoughtful, passionate, and timely teachings of Justice Ginsburg should be considered sacrosanct and unchallengeable, I recognize that even with her well-known and documented ideological and jurisprudential differences with her great friend, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, there was, and should be, room for earnest, legitimate debate and divergence of opinion. However, after that debate, we should arrive together for what is best for the country as a whole, regardless of party or persuasion. Justice Ginsburg knew this to be an incontrovertible fact, and demonstrated consistently and constantly that she subscribed to it wholeheartedly.
Unfortunately, given the highly polarized division of our country now, the rush to fill the RBG High Court seat by the bare majority of the Senate with someone who not only thinks and reasons wholly differently than the way Justice Ginsburg did, but someone who will vote with the president because he is the president, goes totally against the wishes of a majority of Americans, according to polls.
And please make no mistake. Do not delude yourself that there is no purposeful, intentional common ground to follow. Has not the president already so stated? And does this not, in and of itself, portend erosion of the very bedrock and foundational principles and values of our late iconic Justice? The early fomenting of a dictatorship? An autocracy?
That, to be sure, is my fear, and I submit that it should be what we all fear. There is also my real concern that many of our fundamental principles will be erased, if not wholly jettisoned. Is this what our traditions and history support? Most definitely and resoundingly they are not! Yet there seems to be a blind, wholesale rush to bring about what certain elected representatives believe is best for everyone because they have convinced themselves that their narrow, self-favored view is right, regardless of what their constituencies — not only locally, but country-wide — think is right.
Yes, I am of the persuasion that such a path, left unchallenged, will intrude further on the very underpinnings that have held firm and have flourished in our singularly fine democracy since its establishment. Woe be the day that our founding fathers observed these current, and recurring, events that strike at the heart of their cherished legal principles and guiding tenets. (Tenets that have been ours for well over 200 years.)
I call on all Americans of even-handed, fair-minded dedication to cherish and to help preserve dispassionate treatment under the law. In the lasting name and legacy of the late Justice Ginsburg, we, as a nation, should engage in all possible efforts to turn back this dark cloud now hanging over us all.
Remember that your health care coverage is in jeopardy and may be jettisoned, your voting rights denied or curtailed, your right to a clean, healthy environment stripped away, your enjoyment of equal rights in all phases of our daily lives deprived, and the prevailing constitutional right of a person to determine for herself what medical course to follow removed. Your silence, your non-involvement, and your lockstep allegiance to the forces now seeking to shape your future will be wholly at odds with the many and varied principles for which Justice Ginsburg stood, and for which she fought tirelessly until she died.
H. Neil Broder of Caldwell is an attorney.