Hawaii politicians, legal scholars recall Ginsburg’s ‘powerful and enduring’ legacy

Sen. Mazie Hirono reacts to news of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's passing

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Politicians, top legal voices and other leaders in the islands remembered Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday as a fierce advocate for women’s rights who believed in the power of the law to right historic wrongs and create a fair playing field for everyone.

Ginsburg died Friday in her Washington home at the age of 87, the Supreme Court announced.

US Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, called Ginsburg a “giant of a jurist."

“There are literally not enough words to describe the transformational impact she had on the lives of millions of Americans as an advocate and a jurist,” Hirono wrote, in a post on Twitter.

She also joined other Democrats in urging Republicans not to seek a replacement until after the election.

US Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said Ginsburg leaves behind a “powerful and enduring legacy.”

“In devoting her life to advancing equality and justice for all, she made our country a better place and blazed a trail for women in civic life,” Schatz said, in a statement.

Hawaii Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald called Ginsburg a “brilliant jurist" who worked hard to ensure “our nation’s promise of justice for all was kept.”

He continued, “She was also a courageous and inspirational role model, both professionally and personally.”

Hawaii House Speaker Scott Saiki said Ginsburg is “irreplaceable.”

The Republican Party of Hawaii also offered their condolences to Ginsburg’s family, calling her a “resolute champion of justice.”

Ginsburg was appointed to the court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, after serving as an architect of the women’s rights movement. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg does not need a seat on the Supreme Court to earn her place in the American history books,” Clinton said, in appointing her. “She has already done that.”

In recent years, the diminutive Ginsburg gained something of a rock star status to her admirers, who affectionately called her the “Notorius RBG" for her defense of the rights of women and minorities, and the strength and resilience she displayed in the face of personal loss and health crises.

Ginsburg also prided herself as one of the more accessible members of the Supreme Court, frequently accepting invitations to speak — and to listen. In 1998, 2004 and again in 2017, she visited Hawaii to serve as the US Supreme Court Jurist-in-Residence at the University of Hawaii’s Richardson School of Law.

During her time in the islands, she spoke to legal scholars and university students but also to community organizations and high schoolers. When she visited Mililani High in 2017, she told students that she always kept a copy of the Constitution with her. “The genius of the Constitution ... is that ‘We the people’ has become ever more embracive," she said, according to an article at the time in Civil Beat.

The framers “expected us to be constantly endeavoring to form a more perfect union.”

However, she also bemoaned the increasing partisan rancor in the nation’s capital.

“Now we have a dysfunctional Congress,” she told law students, “but at least we know that we could have a legislature of the kind that the United States should have.”

Also during that 2017 visit, Ginsburg told the students that being an attorney wasn’t just a way to earn a living. It affords you a chance, she said, to make life better for those who are less fortunate.

That sense of law as a calling resonated with many.

Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice Sabrina McKenna said Ginsburg’s career and life was one of the reasons she pursued a legal career. “She has been an inspiration to so many of us, so many women, she has been an idol to so many of us,” she said. “So we’re really, really going to miss her.”

The dean of the law school was among the many hit hard by Ginsburg’s death.

“People are mourning, and there is a sense of real loss, like we lost a member of our own family, of our ohana,” said dean Camille Nelson.

She added, “The people I’ve heard from today are quite frankly said and devastated in many ways, and concerned for the future.”

In an interview with the University of Hawaii student newspaper Ka Leo during her final visit, Ginsburg was asked if she felt a responsibility to wait for a Democratic president to appoint her successor.

“Well, I feel a responsibility to do the job as long as I’m fully able to do it,” she replied.

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