By Michael Rubinkam
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Hundreds gathered on Tuesday at the U.S. Supreme Court for the first time since Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died.
A nearly-full Supreme Court and a sizable number of long-time supporters filled the packed courtroom for a memorial service in Washington.
They also gathered at the court for a ceremonial swearing-in of Chief Justice John Roberts, another long-time partner, but including Ginsburg’s closest allies from the court.
Afterward, Ginsburg’s body was taken to a private funeral on Wednesday at her family home in upstate New York. Her son and daughter took the stand at her funeral.
Ginsburg died on Friday night at age 85.
After two years of campaigning for the job, Roberts took over in March, despite opposition from liberal, pro-abortion and civil rights activists.
Ginsburg’s widow, Maureen, told the court that the justice’s quick departure was not unexpected because she had been ill in recent months.
But she told an emotional Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor that her late husband, known as “the chief justice,” was dedicated to their fellow justices.
“Ruth’s health began to fail, and soon thereafter she became frail,” she said. “Ruth struggled to continue providing the service her office asks of us. I fought this battle with her in mind.”
Ginsburg, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, played a central role in the U.S. court system and as the court’s first female justice also inspired lifelong friendships.Slideshow (15 Images)
In 2007, after years of deliberation and numerous late-night phone calls, Roberts received Ginsburg’s long-awaited high court nomination and Senate Democrats gathered to mark her life.
Roberts, a conservative justice named by President George W. Bush, used his mark on the court’s legacy to draft what is now known as the Citizens United case, which cleared a key test for the power of corporations.
Democratic President Barack Obama hailed Roberts as “a man who has always shown himself to be committed to justices with whom he had great personal and professional relationships.”
Obama, in an address to the court on Monday, called for his successor to respect the tradition of “showing up for the law and for the law alone.”
Ginsburg’s powerful family, many of whom were deeply involved in her political career, filled the courtroom to hear her congressional testimony on the Supreme Court case Plessy v Ferguson.
She was expected to be a cornerstone of the court for years to come as another fierce independent justice, Antonin Scalia, succumbed to cancer at age 79.
The court is also considering whether to hear the first appeal from President Donald Trump’s campaign finance law change. In the meantime, a low-key schedule began with Roberts’ inauguration on Monday.(Reporting by Michael Rubinkam; Editing by Will Dunham)