Bay Area mourns the loss of Justice Ginsburg, reflects on her legacy

The shock of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death prompted a vigil and march through the streets of San Francisco Friday. The crowd came with candles, carried like precious memories of a life well-loved, lit the faces of hundreds of people who gathered to grieve for a woman they say changed lives through her lifelong fight for civil rights.

"There's no figure like RBG and what she has done for this country," said Rafael Mandelman, the San Francisco Supervisor who organized the event.

"You see it today in the outpouring of grief. People who didn't know her are as devastated as those of us who did know her," said Amanda Tyler, a professor at U.C. Berkeley School of Law.

Tyler knew Justice Ginsburg first as a clerk and later as a friend. Tyler says through the summer they had been working on a book together about Justice Ginsburg's life.

"What we envisioned was a book that chronicled her legacy in particular of fighting for gender equality," said Tyler, "Because of her, the legal landscape in this country changed. And there aren't a lot of people you can say that about."

Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the U.C. Berkeley School of Law, said he argued cases before Justice Ginsburg and was struck by her passion and energy when she spoke at U.C. Berkeley last year, despite her frail appearance.

"It's sad. It's a loss of a great justice. It's a loss of a woman who was a tremendous hero to people in this country. It's the loss of an icon in our society," said Chemerinsky, "When it came to issues like pay equity for women, access to contraceptives, access to abortion, protection from discrimination and sexual harassment, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the voice on the court."

She was voice for liberal causes, who was also capable of a deep and caring friendship with her friend Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the most outspoken conservatives.

"Theirs was a relationship built on trying to understand the other side and debating issues of the day, important issues of the day in a civil and respectful way," said Tyler.
Tyler says she hopes that is not lost amidst the current political partisanship. She also hopes the fight over who will fill Justice Ginsburg's seat will not overshadow her life and legacy fighting for women and equal rights under the Constitution.

"She said, you know, when you have cancer you learn to appreciate every day. You have a zest for life, I think she said, that you never had before," said Tyler, "I think that resilience and that dedication really defines her, who she was, and that's how I hope everyone will remember her."

Justice Ginsburg was awarded a 2020 Liberty Medal from the National Constitution Center just one day before she died.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU. Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana.