Ginsburg dismisses retirement push by some fellow liberals
WASHINGTON — At age 80, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, leader of the Supreme Court’s liberal wing, says she is in excellent health, even lifting weights despite having cracked a pair of ribs again, and plans to stay several more years on the bench.
In an interview, she vowed to resist any pressure to retire that might come from liberals who want to ensure that Democratic President Obama can pick her successor before the November 2016 presidential election.
Ginsburg said she had fallen in the bathroom of her home in early May, suffering the same injury she had last year near term’s end.
“I knew immediately what it was this time,” she said, adding that there was nothing to do but take painkillers and wait out the six weeks as her ribs healed. Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said on Wednesday that the day after the May 2 incident, Ginsburg was examined at the Office of the Attending Physician at the Capitol and then went about her regular schedule.
The justice, who survived two serious bouts with cancer, in 1999 and 2009, is keeping up a typically busy summer of travel, at home and abroad, beginning next week with a trip to Paris. Ginsburg said she was back to her usual weight-lifting routine and recently had good results from a bone density scan.
Supreme Court justices are appointed for life and can be a president’s most enduring legacy. Disputes over many social dilemmas come down to 5-4 votes, as in the recently completed term on gay marriage and voting rights. A retirement decision rests with an individual justice, but history is rife with tensions between aging justices and anxious presidents. Ginsburg, the eldest justice on an ideologically divided court, was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993.
Political pressure is an age-old backdrop to Supreme Court appointments, and for Ginsburg, it is likely to accelerate before the November 2014 congressional elections that could alter the Democratic dominance of the Senate.
Such talk is always subtle because a presidential administration never wants to be perceived to engage in politics over the judiciary, given the bedrock American principle of separation of powers.
Before Obama’s 2012 re-election, Harvard University law professor Randall Kennedy stirred public debate with an April 2011 essay for the New Republic urging Ginsburg and Justice Stephen Breyer, now 74 and also appointed by Clinton, to retire to ensure a possible Republican president not fill their seats.
On Wednesday, Kennedy repeated his sentiment, telling Reuters he still thinks that “the responsible thing” would be for Ginsburg to step down. “It seems to me that a justice should take into account the politics surrounding confirmation and not allow (an) opportunity to fall to a Republican,” said Kennedy, who was a law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall.