Anika Shah was getting ready to spend the evening of Sept. 18 with her two sisters when news broke that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died.
“I had two initial reactions,” said Shah, a government sophomore and co-director of Student Government’s Women’s Resource Agency. “My first one was just pure devastation and shock. I started crying immediately. And my second reaction, I immediately shouted, ‘Everyone better vote.’”
Ginsburg, who died from complications of pancreatic cancer, was a lawyer and the first tenured female professor at Columbia Law School. Ginsburg spent 27 years as a justice in the United States Supreme Court.
Lisa Eskow, law professor and co-director of the Supreme Court Clinic, said Ginsburg had a large impact on her life as a professor and as a Jewish woman practicing law. Eskow said Ginsburg’s death was “devastating” and also “distinctly personal.”
“Her death has stirred to action and increased a desire and commitment, in certainly myself and others, to fight injustices and to take up her mantle and to do the work that she has been doing and would want all of us to continue to do to fight for more widespread equality in our society,” Eskow said.
In January, Ginsburg was presented with the LBJ Liberty & Justice for All Award, the highest honor awarded by the LBJ Foundation.
“Justice Ginsburg was a relentless champion for social justice,” Luci Baines Johnson, daughter of former President Lyndon B. Johnson, said in an LBJ Foundation press release. “One of the pinnacle moments in my life was joining my sister and all the members of the LBJ Foundation in giving Justice Ginsburg our highest award.”
Shah said she hopes Ginsburg’s death encourages more people to vote in November now that there is an open seat on the Supreme Court.
In the weekend after Ginsburg’s death Sept. 18, there was an 118% increase in national voter registration compared to the previous weekend, according to a report by NBC.
Shah said Ginsburg served as an inspiration for her to pursue law as a career. She said Ginsburg’s death makes her worried about the rights of marginalized groups. President Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett, federal judge and law professor, for the Supreme Court last weekend. If she is confirmed, the Supreme Court would have a 6-3 conservative majority.