Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg returned to the office Friday — but is she fully recovered?
Almost two months after the 85-year-old’s lung cancer surgery, not much is known about the health status of Ginsburg. Though she returned to work on Friday, there’s been speculation that the ailing justice is still unwell.
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And her extended absence left court watchers wondering behind the scenes if Ginsburg’s health is in a downturn.
Ginsburg was one of the many Supreme Court judges that didn’t show up in person to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, weeks after the 2019 Supreme Court session began.
And she missed weeks of work before her surprised return on Friday.
Doctors at the time pronounced Ginsburg in excellent health and said there was no indication that her lung cancer had spread. The cancerous tumors were removed in Dec. 2018 — they were discovered after Ginsburg was hospitalized after breaking her ribs during a fall while working last year.
But the silence from Ginsburg camp regarding her overall health has been deafening. Though she’s back in the office, is she there to stay? The 85-year-old judge has already missed court twice in the last few months because of her failing health.
If she can’t, is there anything that can be done if Ginsburg isn’t able to function in her job?
Not really, say experts. It would be up to the 85-year-old liberal judge to step down voluntarily.
Speaking to The Daily Caller, a nonpartisan watchdog that advocates for increased transparency at the high court called Fix the Court argued that should change. The group advocates for greater transparency and public accountability of Supreme Court judges mental health.
“Removing a federal judge or Supreme Court justice is difficult, and it should remain that way,” Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth told The Daily Caller recently. “Instead of focusing on removal, I think the judiciary should proactively establish programs that could help identify and mitigate cognitive decline in judges before we get to this point of public questioning.”
Reform is possible, and in some state courts there’s a system in place for temporarily replacing an incapacitated justice.
“In some state court systems, including California, the highest court can essentially borrow a judge from a lower court to temporarily replace an absent member, said Chemerinsky, the dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley,” PBS NewsHour wrote.
“The Supreme Court has no similar arrangement. The nine justices are there for as long as they wish, and neither a retired justice nor an appellate judge can fill a void.”
Other than resignation, there’s nothing to be done about Ginsburg’s extended absences except wait.
And hope that her Friday return means she’s fulled recovered.
— The Horn editorial team