Saturday, March 14, 2009

Supreme Court's Future

Ginsburg Hints at Vacancy 'Soon'

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told law students in Boston on Friday that there could be an opening on the Supreme Court "soon," but she did not indicate when it might come or who might be departing.

Ginsburg was answering questions from students at New England School of Law when she noted that the nine justices take pictures together only when the court has a new member, according to an Associated Press report. "We haven't had any of those for some time, but surely we will soon," she said, according to the report.

She did not take questions from reporters, so it was unclear whether she had specific knowledge or was simply acknowledging the aging of the court.

Ginsburg, who turns 76 on Sunday, has said recently that she has no plans to leave. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last month, but her doctors said the cancer was detected early and had not spread beyond the tiny tumor they removed, along with her spleen. Ginsburg was on the bench less than three weeks later, without missing a court session, and has had an active schedule since then.

Speculation about a departure has also centered on two of Ginsburg's fellow liberals on the court, John Paul Stevens, who will turn 89 next month, and David H. Souter, 69. But neither has mentioned the possibility.

Souter alone among the justices apparently has not hired clerks for the next term. On the other hand, he is usually the last to make hires and normally chooses clerks in late spring for the term that begins in October.

Souter prefers his home in New Hampshire to life in Washington, something Ginsburg alluded to in her remarks to the law students. She said Souter, in place of her ailing husband, recently escorted her to the opera.

"He never goes out, so people were amazed to see him," Ginsburg said, according to the Boston Globe.

Ginsburg, who survived colon cancer 10 years ago, said advice from fellow cancer survivor and retired justice Sandra Day O'Connor has helped her keep up with the court's pace, the AP reported.

"She said when you're up to chemotherapy, you do it on Friday, Friday afternoon. You'll get over it over the weekend and you'll be able to come to the court on Monday," said Ginsburg, adding that O'Connor returned to work nine days after being treated for breast cancer. "So I've been following her advice meticulously."

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