(KOMO) – With the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of her former law clerks is sharing the profound impact the civil rights champion had on her own life and career.

Elizabeth Porter, an associate professor of law at UW, worked under Ginsburg starting in 2002. Porter said she was immediately impressed by Ginsburg’s sophisticated approach to the cases that came before her.

“I feel like we couldn’t really hope for much better of a life than the life that she designed and lived,” Porter said.

Landmark opinions were forged at that time as Ginsburg tackled same sex rights and affirmative action cases. Porter said the experience would shape her own understanding of life, the law and the fight for equality that continues to this day.

“This is a political tragedy for the country in my view,” Porter said of Ginsburg’s death after repeated bouts of cancer. “We are in a deeply polarized place and we’re losing an important steadying voice.”

Ginsburg herself faced discrimination coming out of law school and turned that into a lifelong quest for equality for all Americans.

A small vigil formed Friday night near the fountain at the Seattle Center, where people paid tribute to the civil rights icon.

“I think she was absolutely the best sort of patriot,” said Deborah Kelch, one of the vigil’s organizers. “She really wanted to ensure that every American had equal rights.”

Aside from a storied career, Porter said Ginsburg had a passion for art and music and spent her days surrounded by people she loved. Ginsburg was 87.

“I can celebrate a beautiful, joyous life well-lived,” Porter said.

Whatever happens next, Porter said she hopes the legitimacy and reputation of the Supreme Court doesn’t get dragged down by political scheming in the upcoming appointment process.