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Thousands expected to honour Ruth Bader Ginsburg at Supreme Court
23 September 2020, 16:04
The judge died last week with cancer at the age of 87.
Thousands of people are expected to pay their respects at the Supreme Court to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last week at the age of 87.
Even with the court closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic and Washington already consumed with talk of Ms Ginsburg’s replacement, people will have the chance to pass by her casket on Wednesday and Thursday.
She was only the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
Ms Ginsburg’s flag-draped casket arrived at the court at 9.30am and was carried into the court’s Great Hall, past her former law clerks who lined the steps.
Inside, the court’s remaining eight justices were together for the first time since the building was closed in March and they resorted to meetings by telephone.
Ms Ginsburg will lie in repose for two days at the court where she served for 27 years and, before that, argued six cases for gender equality in the 1970s.
Nearly 200 members of the public had gathered to pay their respects by early morning, intermingling with dog walkers and joggers who cut through the crowd.
Outside the building, chairs and monitors were set up.
After a private ceremony on Wednesday in the court’s Great Hall, her casket will be moved outside the building to the top of the court’s front steps so public mourners can pay their respects in line with public health guidance for the pandemic.
Since her death on Friday evening, people have been leaving flowers, notes, placards and all manner of paraphernalia outside the court in tribute to the woman who became known in her final years as the Notorious RBG.
Court workers cleared away the items and cleaned the court plaza pavement in advance of Wednesday’s ceremony.
Following past practice at the tradition-laden court, Ms Ginsburg’s casket is expected to arrive just before 9.30am local time on Wednesday, the court said.
Supreme Court police will carry it up the court steps, which will be lined by her former law clerks serving as honorary pallbearers.
Chief Justice John Roberts and the other justices will be in the Great Hall when the 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.
A 2016 portrait of Ms Ginsburg by artist Constance P Beaty will be displayed nearby.
It is unclear whether President Donald Trump will visit the court before he leaves town on Wednesday afternoon, though he did pay respects when Justice John Paul Stevens died last year.
President Barack Obama visited the court after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016.
The entrance to the courtroom, along with Ms Ginsburg’s chair and place on the bench next to Mr Roberts, have been draped in black, a long-standing court custom.
After the private ceremony inside the court, Ms Ginsburg’s casket will be on public view from 11am to 10pm on Wednesday and 9am to 10pm on Thursday.
On Friday, she will lie in state at the Capitol, the first woman to do so and only the second Supreme Court justice after William Howard Taft, who was also president.
Rosa Parks, a private citizen as opposed to a government official, is the only woman who has lain in honour at the Capitol.
Ms Ginsburg will be buried beside her husband Martin, who died in 2010, in a private ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery next week.
She is survived by a son and a daughter, four grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
Only Chief Justice Roger Taney, who died in October 1864, died closer to a presidential election.