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A rapper, an elevator and an elephant: stories Ginsburg told


In recent years Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was surprised to find herself so popular that “everyone wants to take a picture with me.” The justice, who died Friday at 87, had become a feminist icon, with books, movies, clothing and even coloring books devoted to her.

People wanted to give her awards. They wanted to hear her talk. Ginsburg was invited to speak so often that inevitably she was asked the same questions and delivered the same punch lines, always, it seemed, to a delighted new audience.

Some of the things Ginsburg liked to tell groups:

What she had in common with a rapper

Ginsburg came to be known as “The Notorious RBG,” a play on the name of the rapper ”The Notorious B.I.G.” Ginsburg liked to note they had one important thing in common. Both were born and bred in Brooklyn, New York.

When asked for her advice

Ginsburg often dispensed a piece of wisdom her mother-in-law gave her on her wedding day. The secret to a happy marriage is this: “Sometimes it helps to be a little deaf.” Ginsburg said it was excellent advice in dealing with her colleagues on the court, too.

On equal parenting

Ginsburg’s son James was what she called a “lively child,” and she would often get calls from his New York City school about his latest caper. Ginsburg finally told the school: “This child has two parents. Please alternate calls.” It was Ginsburg’s husband’s turn, she said.

So Ginsburg’s husband went to the school and was told James had “stolen the elevator,” taking a group of kindergartners for a ride.

But “after the elevator incident, the calls came barely once a semester,” Ginsburg noted, and not because James was any better behaved. “They were much more reluctant to take a man away from his work than a woman,” Ginsburg liked to explain.

On facing discrimination

Ginsburg often noted that she had “three strikes” against her in trying to get a job when she graduated from Columbia’s law school in 1959, despite graduating at the top of her class. She was Jewish. She was a wife. And she was a mother.

“Getting the first job was hard for women of my vintage,” she’d say. “But once you got the first job you did it at least as well as the men and so the next step was not as hard.”

Ginsburg also liked to note something Justice Sandra Day O’Connor would say: “Sandra said, ‘Where would the two of us be if there had been no discrimination?’ Well, today we’d be retired partners from a large law firm.”

On her friendship with Antonin Scalia

The genuine friendship between the liberal Ginsburg and conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016, puzzled many audiences. Ginsburg explained: “The number one reason why I loved Justice Scalia so is he made me laugh.”

The two shared a love of opera. And they were close enough that their families spent New Year’s together. Scalia would sometimes call to point out grammar errors in Ginsburg’s opinion drafts. Ginsburg, for her part, would sometimes tell him: “This opinion is so overheated, you’d be more persuasive if you tone it down.” She liked to say: “He never listened to that.”

Ginsburg often described a famous picture of the two of them riding an elephant together in India, the heavyset Scalia in front and diminutive Ginsburg in the rear. Ginsburg’s feminist friends were horrified. Why was she in the back? Weight distribution, she explained.

On her achievements

Ginsburg’s mother, Celia Bader, who died the day before Ginsburg gradated high school, never attended college but worked as a bookkeeper. Ginsburg would sometimes ask audiences: “What’s the difference between a bookkeeper in New York’s Garment District and a U.S. Supreme Court justice?” Her answer: “One generation.”

On changing the Constitution

When asked how she might change the Constitution if given the opportunity, Ginsburg liked to point to the effort in the 1970s to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, which fell three states short of ratification. Ginsburg said passing it was still a good idea.

“I have three granddaughters,” Ginsburg liked to say. “And I’d like to be able to take out my pocket Constitution and say that the equal citizenship stature of men and women is a fundamental tenet of our society.”

On the Supreme Court’s women

Ginsburg, the second female justice, was sometimes asked when there would be enough women on the Supreme Court. Her response: “When there are nine.” She’d explain: “Some people are taken aback until they remember that for most of our country’s history there were only men on the high court bench.”

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Arizona Senate race could play crucial role in confirmation (copy)

PHOENIX — If Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly wins a seat in the U.S. Senate, he could take office as early as Nov. 30, shrinking the GOP’s Senate majority at a crucial moment and complicating the path to confirmation for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

Kelly has maintained a consistent polling lead over Republican Sen. Martha McSally, who was appointed to the seat held by John McCain, who died in 2018.

Because the contest is a special election to finish McCain’s term, the winner could be sworn in as soon as the results are officially certified. Other winners in the November election won’t take office until January.

President Donald Trump said Monday he expects to announce his pick for the Supreme Court by week’s end, before Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is buried, launching a monumental Senate confirmation fight over objections from Democrats who say it’s too close to the November election.

Trump said he is planning to name his pick by Friday or Saturday, ahead of the first presidential election debate. Ginsberg’s casket is to be on view mid-week on the iconic steps outside the court and later privately at the Capitol. She is to be buried next week in a private service at Arlington National Cemetery.

If Kelly wins, the timing when he formally takes office could be crucial in determining who replaces Ginsburg. It could eliminate a Republican vote in favor of Trump’s nominee — the GOP currently has 53 seats in the 100-member chamber — or require McConnell to speed up the nomination process.

With McSally in the Senate, four GOP defections could defeat a nomination, while a tie vote could be broken by Vice President Mike Pence.

McSally quickly laid down a marker, declaring on Twitter within hours of the announcement of Ginsberg’s death that “this U.S. Senate should vote on President Trump’s next nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.”

She has not elaborated on whether the confirmation vote should come before or after the election. But she highlighted the renewed stakes of her race in a fundraising pitch on Saturday.

“If Mark Kelly comes out on top, HE could block President Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee from being confirmed,” she wrote.

Democrats in 2018 found success in Arizona, a state long dominated by the GOP, by appealing to Republicans and independent voters disaffected with Trump. The Supreme Court vacancy could shake up the race and boost McSally’s lagging campaign by keeping those voters in her camp.

Kelly said late Saturday that “the people elected to the presidency and Senate in November should fill this vacancy.”

“When it comes to making a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, Washington shouldn’t rush that process for political purposes,” Kelly said in a statement.

Arizona law requires election results to be officially certified on the fourth Monday after the election, which falls this year on Nov. 30. The certification could be delayed up to three days if the state has not received election results from any of the 15 counties.

Democrats, led by presidential nominee Joe Biden, are protesting the Republicans’ rush to replace Ginsburg, saying voters should speak first, on Election Day, Nov. 3, and the winner of the White House should fill the vacancy.

Trump dismissed those arguments, telling “Fox & Friends,” “I think that would be good for the Republican Party, and I think it would be good for everybody to get it over with.”

The impending clash over the vacant seat — when to fill it and with whom — has scrambled the stretch run of the presidential race for a nation already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 people, left millions unemployed and heightened partisan tensions and anger.

Democrats point to the hypocrisy of Republicans in trying to rush through a pick so close to the election after refusing to do so for President Barack Obama in February 2016, long before that year’s election. Biden is appealing to GOP senators to delay the vote until after the election.

Ginsburg, 87, died Friday of metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing ahead with plans to begin the confirmation process, vowing to vote “this year” on Trump’s nominee. With just over a month before the election, he said the Senate has “more than sufficient time” to handle the nomination.

Trump allowed that he would accept a vote in the lame duck period after Election Day but made clear his preference would be that it occur by Nov. 3.

Trump said Monday he had list of five finalists, “probably four.” He has promised to nominate a woman, and his preference is for someone younger who could hold her seat for decades.

Conversations in the White House and McConnell’s office were increasingly focused on two finalists: Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa, according to a person granted anonymity to discuss the private deliberations. Trump himself confirmed that they are among the top contenders.

Barrett as long been a favorite of conservatives, and was a strong contender for the seat that eventually went in 2018 to Brett Kavanaugh. At the time, Trump told confidants that he was “saving” Barrett for Ginsburg’s seat.

Lagoa has been pushed by some aides who tout her political advantages of being Hispanic and hailing from the key political battleground state of Florida.

Trump admitted that politics may play a role. Late Monday, he gave a nod to another battleground state, Michigan, and White House officials confirmed he was referring to Joan Larsen, a federal appeals court judge there.

The president also indicated that Allison Jones Rushing, a 38-year-old appellate judge from North Carolina, is on his short list. His team is also actively considering Kate Todd, the White House deputy counsel who has never been a judge but was a clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas.

As the Senate returned to Washington on Monday, attention focused on Republicans Mitt Romney of Utah and Chuck Grassley of Iowa for clues to whether Trump and McConnell will be able to confirm Ginsburg’s replacement anytime soon.

Four Republicans could halt a quick confirmation and Trump criticized Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska for opposing a vote before elections. The president warned they would be “very badly hurt” by voters.

Trump went so far as to disparage reports that Ginsburg had told her granddaughter it was her wish that a replacement justice not be confirmed until the inauguration of a new president. Providing no evidence, Trump suggested that Democratic political foes were behind the report, including Rep. Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman who led the chamber’s impeachment probe.

Schiff said Trump sank to a new “low” with that comment. He denied any involvement in Ginsburg’s dying wish but said he would “fight like hell to make it come true.”

A day earlier, Biden appealed to Republicans to join Murkowski and Collins in opposing a confirmation vote before the Nov. 3 election. It takes four GOP senators breaking ranks to keep Trump’s nominee off the court.

“Uphold your constitutional duty, your conscience,” said Biden, speaking in Philadelphia on Sunday. “Let the people speak. Cool the flames that have engulfed our country.”

Jamming the nomination through, Biden said, would amount to an “abuse of power.”

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County losing investment, revenue over sewer woes

SAN TAN VALLEY — Pinal County is losing big money in investment and tax revenue as problems persist at the smelly Section 11 wastewater plant, attendees at a Pinal Partnership forum were told.

Sewer treatment woes that have already stymied growth in southern San Tan Valley and are threatening to stall it in the north were the subject of the online forum on Friday. Approximately 260 people viewed it.

New construction has essentially stopped for two years on 22,000 acres, or nearly 35 square miles, in San Tan Valley over problems at Section 11, attorney Court Rich and Danny Court, senior economist with Elliott D. Pollack & Company, said.

Danny Court said if there’s no change in the next 18 months, the county will have missed out on $250 million in economic activity and $8 million in lost tax revenue. In three years the loss could be $600 million. In seven years the loss could be $1.6 billion and $50 million on tax revenue, he said.

The county may never get this money back if investors see too much risk. He said it’s worth considering, “are we permanently damaging an area unnecessarily, and are we going to be losing out on long-term investment?”

Magma Ranch developer Nariman Afkhami said he has 1,800 lots he can’t build on. “The time of talk is over, we need action,” Afkhami said. “We need immediate resolution for Section 11 to bring it to compliance. Whether they use Biolac (a type of enclosed wastewater plant) or anything else they want to do is up to them.”

Afkhami also recommended that Johnson Utilities make an interconnection with the town of Queen Creek’s sewer system, which “will immediately open up capacity.” An attendee noted that JU’s owners have resisted this idea for a long time. Court Rich responded that he believes they will continue to, but if the Arizona Corporation Commission orders it, the courts won’t stop it.

JU’s Pecan wastewater plant near Queen Creek is also near capacity, Court Rich said. The Pinal County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 16 voted to send a letter to the ACC asking it to immediately provide interim solutions that will allow development to proceed around the Pecan and the Section 11 plants.

Court Rich said he hopes the ACC is in a position by its Oct. 14 open meeting to offer solutions and a clearer picture of when these problems will end. “Hopefully by next month, we’ve got some certainty and we can move forward.”

He said Biolac technology, a solution favored by JU, is being used in Eloy and Apache Junction and could be up and running in 18 months to relieve Section 11. But EPCOR, interim operator of JU, favors replacing Section 11 with a new plant in Copper Basin, which could take five years.

A listener asked if control of JU will eventually return to the owners or if it will be sold. Court Rich said the issue of taking the utility away from the owners will likely end up before the Arizona Supreme Court at some point. He said private property rights are very important in the United States, but so is the duty of a monopoly utility. He said the odds are it will go back to George Johnson someday.

Court Rich said the ACC has an item on its upcoming agenda that would actually take away the certificate of convenience and necessity, or the legal right to operate. “I don’t know if the commission intends to vote on that or not. … It would no doubt be a huge legal fight.”

Another attendee asked who will pay for these fixes. Court Rich said developers have already indicated to the ACC they will pay for an interconnection to the Queen Creek sewer system.

At Section 11, there are daily ongoing environmental violations that need to be cleaned up. Whether the state makes the owner pay for it and not put the cost on the ratepayers is one question. Developers may also be willing to help pay for interim solutions there as well, Court Rich said.

Another attendee asked if these are just short-term solutions to help developers, or if anyone is planning for the future of Pinal County. Court Rich said when developers pay their impact fees, and help build roads and infrastructure, it’s good for the area.