US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg shows the many different collars she wears with her robes, in her chambers at the Supreme Court building in Washington, the US, in this photo taken on June 17 2016. Picture: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST
US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg shows the many different collars she wears with her robes, in her chambers at the Supreme Court building in Washington, the US, in this photo taken on June 17 2016. Picture: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST

Washington — The death of US Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just 46 days before the presidential election has upended assumptions about how the contest will play out, and has raised questions about how an eight-person court might handle a 4-4 tie on something like a contested election result or a consequential case regarding the Affordable Care Act.

Here are some details about the remaining eight Supreme Court justices:

John G Roberts Jr, appointed by George W Bush: The chief justice of the US, Roberts is a Republican appointee who has at times pushed back on President Donald Trump’s frequent attacks on the judiciary. In 2018, after Trump called a judge who ruled against his administration’s asylum policy, “an Obama judge,” Roberts issued a statement saying, “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” but an “independent judiciary” that “we should all be thankful for.” As chief justice he’s fought to preserve the court’s institutional standing as an apolitical body. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School and clerked for former chief justice William Rehnquist. Roberts, 65, took his seat in 2005.

Clarence Thomas, appointed by George HW Bush: Before the 2018 dust-up over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, Thomas’s appointment was one of the most controversial in recent memory. He was accused of having sexually harassed attorney Anita Hill while he was assistant secretary of the department of education and chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. His contentious confirmation hearings were presided over by senator Joe Biden, now the Democratic nominee for president. He was ultimately confirmed and is the longest serving current justice. Thomas, 72, graduated from College of the Holy Cross and Yale Law School. He took his seat in 1991. He’s the court’s only Black justice and only the second African American to sit on the court.

Stephen G Breyer, appointed by Bill Clinton: A San Francisco native, Breyer, 82, holds degrees from Stanford, Oxford and Harvard Law School. Among other assignments during a long career in government service and academia before taking the bench, he served as an assistant special prosecutor during the Watergate proceedings. Breyer acquired a reputation as a moderate jurist during his time on the US Court of Appeals, a position to which he was appointed by president Jimmy Carter. Although he is thought of as a pragmatist, he is associated with the court’s more liberal justices.

Samuel A Alito, Jr, appointed by George W Bush: Alito, 70, one of the court’s most conservative members, held several positions in the justice department before becoming the US attorney for New Jersey in the late 1980s. He was then appointed by George HW Bush to the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where he served for 16 years. In 2014, he wrote the majority decision in the Hobby Lobby case, which said closely held corporations can claim a religious exemption from the requirement that they offer free birth control through their health plans. He’s a graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School.

Sonia Sotomayor, appointed by Barack Obama: As Barack Obama’s first Supreme Court pick, Sotomayor became the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the court. She was born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents. Her father died when she was nine years old, and her mother worked six days a week as a nurse to support the family. After working as a prosecutor and in private practice, Sotomayor was appointed to the bench in 1991 by George HW Bush, who nominated her to the US District Court, Southern District of New York. In that capacity, she played a role in ending the 1995 Major League baseball strike. Sotomayor, 66, graduated from Princeton and Yale Law School.

Elena Kagan, appointed by Barack Obama: Obama’s second nominee, Kagan, 60, had a long career in academia after briefly working at a Washington, DC,law firm and clerking for two judges, including justice Thurgood Marshall. She taught at the University of Chicago and Harvard law schools before serving in the Clinton administration and becoming dean of Harvard Law School. She served as solicitor-general under Obama before being nominated to the Supreme Court. She holds degrees from Princeton, Oxford and Harvard Law School.

Neil M Gorsuch, appointed by Donald Trump: Gorsuch was Trump’s first nominee and ultimately filled the vacancy left by justice Antonin Scalia, whose unexpected death in 2016 presaged the current fight over when and how a new Supreme Court justice should be nominated and confirmed. Gorsuch graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School, and also earned a PhD in law from Oxford University. He also attended the same preparatory school in his youth as Trump’s second nominee to the court, justice Brett Kavanaugh. Gorsuch, at 53, is the youngest justice currently on the court.

Brett M Kavanaugh, appointed by Donald Trump: The newest member of the court, Kavanaugh, 55, was sailing smoothly towards confirmation in 2018 when Christine Blasey Ford came forward to testify that she’d been sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh when the two were in high school in Bethesda, Maryland. Kavanaugh denied the accusations, kicking off a supplemental FBI investigation and a high-profile hearing about the matter that reverberates to this day. Kavanaugh graduated from Yale College and Yale Law School and clerked for several judges after graduation, including justice Anthony Kennedy. He worked for Kenneth Starr and the Office of Independent Counsel during the Clinton years and worked for the George W Bush campaign during the Florida recount.


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