Guam leaders mourn death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

In this July 31, 2014, file photo, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is seen in her chambers in at the Supreme Court in Washington. The Supreme Court says Ginsburg has died of metastatic pancreatic cancer at age 87. (Cliff Owen/AP via ABC News)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the powerhouse Supreme Court justice and champion for women’s rights, has died at the age of 87.

“Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died this evening surrounded by her family at her home in Washington, D.C., due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer,” Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

Guam Congressman Michael San Nicolas said: “”We have lost icons, pioneers, and real life heroes in this past year, and the passage of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a loss of a giant in our justice system, an embodiment of American courage, and a call to action for those of us who have taken the mortality of our heroes for granted.”

Governor Lou Leon Guerrero and Lieutenant Governor Josh Tenorio also issued the following statement:

“Justice Ruth Bader Gingsburg was a legal giant. She was a trailblazer in gender equality and was instrumental in shaping the modern era of women’s rights. Justice Ginsburg was a steadfast champion of justice and lived her life with integrity and stalwart resilience. The world truly lost a hero today. May she rest in peace.”

The Democratic Party of Guam (DPG) said Justice Ginsberg assured every American that partisan politics aside, our civil liberties are protected.

“As the second female Justice on the bench, Justice Ginsberg was a trailblazer in the areas of abolishing gender discrimination. She had delivered progressive votes on pivotal opinions relating to abortion rights, same-sex marriage, voting rights, immigration, healthcare, and affirmative action. Justice Ginsberg has been a tireless advocate for democratic ideals and just days before her passing, she stated “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” DPG said in a statement.

Sarah Thomas Nededog, Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Guam, said: “We join every American in mourning the loss of the biggest champion of Democratic Ideals. Facing uncertainties, Justice Ginsberg assured every American that the ideals instilled in the Constitution will be upheld regardless of the political will of the time. Today we take a moment of silence to honor Justice Ginsberg and her enormous efforts to bring equality and justice to higher standards. We extend our condolences to her family, colleagues and all who strive for these ideals in our nation and around the world.”

Ginsberg’s death, while still serving on the Court, a scenario long-dreaded by liberals, creates a rare election-year opportunity for President Donald Trump to nominate a conservative replacement, triggering a pitched political battle.

“Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature. We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement. “Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her — a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”

Ginsburg had become the standard-bearer for the court’s liberal wing, writing landmark opinions that advanced gender equality and rights for disabled Americans and immigrants in her more than quarter-century on the bench.

She was equally known for impassioned dissents on major social issues — from affirmative action to equal pay — which earned her a sort of rock-star status among progressives and inspired lawmakers on how to legislate social change.

“In the last 26 years, she has far exceeded even my expectations,” former President Bill Clinton, who appointed Ginsburg to the court, at a 2019 event honoring the justice at his presidential library. “We like her because she seems so totally on the level in a world hungry for people who are not trying to con you, who are on the level.”

Ginsburg was the second woman to sit on the high court, joining Sandra Day O’Connor in 1993, and went on to become its longest-serving woman in history. She was the first female Jewish justice.

“Ruth Ginsburg is an inspiration,” said Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the court’s newest member, in his first public speech as a justice in 2019. He called her a “dedicated, hardworking and generous soul.”

Chief Justice John Roberts has called Ginsburg a “rock star.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the third woman and first Latina appointed to the Supreme Court, has likened her colleague to a “steel magnolia.” “She’s delicate on the outside,” Sotomayor said of Ginsburg in 2018, “but she has an iron rod behind it.”Throughout her career, Ginsburg defied gender norms and skeptics of her mettle.

She was one of just nine women in a class of 500 students at Harvard Law School in 1956 and became the first female member of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. She later transferred to Columbia University Law School, following her beloved husband Marty who landed a job in Manhattan.

When she graduated top of her class in 1959 without a single job offer from a New York law firm, she accepted a clerkship with a federal judge in Manhattan.

Undeterred, Ginsburg pursued the law through academia, first as a researcher at Columbia and later joining the faculty of Rutgers University in New Jersey, where she became one of the first women to teach at any American law school.

In the 1970s, Ginsburg began taking up sex discrimination cases with the ACLU and co-founded the organization’s Women’s Rights Project. She argued six cases before the Supreme Court and won five of them.

She argued on behalf of men as well as women, part of a strategy to fight gender inequality in a way that appealed to a predominantly male judiciary. In the 1975 case Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, Ginsburg represented a widower seeking to recover his wife’s Social Security survivor benefits, which at the time were only granted to widows. She won.

“I was doing what my mother taught me to do – be a good teacher,” Ginsburg told a crowd at Meredith College in North Carolina last year. “It was getting the court to understand that these were no favors to women and opening their eyes to that reality was the challenge.”

President Jimmy Carter appointed Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1980 where she spent 13 years and wrote hundreds of opinions. “What Jimmy Carter began was to change the complexion of the judiciary,” she said of her nomination and that of 40 other women, a record.

In 1993, Justice Byron White announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, giving a young President Bill Clinton his first chance to make an appointment, just seven months after taking office. Clinton considered several candidates before settling on Ginsburg after a face-to-face Oval Office meeting.

“She was brilliant and had a good head on her shoulders. She was rigorous but warm-hearted. She had a good sense of humor and sensible, attainable judicial philosophy,” Clinton said recently, reflecting on his pick.

“I thought she had the ability to find common ground in a country increasingly polarized,” he said. “She had already proved herself to be a healer. In short, I liked her and I believed in her.”

The U.S. Senate confirmed Ginsburg on Aug. 3, 1993, by a vote of 96-3. (with ABC News)