Ginsburg has been treated four times for cancer, most recently in August. Dire diagnoses and remarkable recoveries have been a recurring theme of her more than quarter-century on the court, and which president will eventually name her replacement a national political question.
Ginsburg has glided through each crisis. Before a roaring crowd at the end of summer at the National Book Festival in Washington, she declared, “This audience can see that I am alive.”
The latest setback began Monday afternoon after the court finished its first-ever remote oral argument, the court said in a statement.
“The justice underwent outpatient tests at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., that confirmed she was suffering from a gallstone that had migrated to her cystic duct, blocking it and causing an infection,” Public Information Officer Kathleen Arberg said.
At some point, she was transferred to Baltimore.
“The justice is resting comfortably and plans to participate in the oral argument teleconference tomorrow morning remotely from the hospital. She expects to stay in the hospital for a day or two,” Arberg said.
Ginsburg participated in Tuesday’s oral argument, but the court did not say from where. The nine justices are scattered and participating remotely in oral arguments this week and next.
The coronavirus pandemic has made it impossible for the court to gather in its grand courtroom, and the justices have not met as a group since March 9. The court canceled scheduled arguments for March and April and rescheduled about half of those cases for the remote teleconference sessions.
There was no noticeable difference in Ginsburg’s questioning of advocates in the oral arguments Monday and Tuesday.
The Mayo Clinic website says treatment for cholecystitis, or inflammation of the gall bladder, includes fasting, fluids, antibiotics and pain medication.
Ginsburg is the oldest member of the court and the leader of its liberal minority. Her health is a matter of constant public speculation and an issue in the presidential election.
Naming her replacement would mean three nominees for President Trump and a chance to solidify a conservative majority for years to come. Democrats hope a president of their party would name the successor for her and perhaps her fellow liberal, Stephen G. Breyer, 81. Both were chosen by President Bill Clinton.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany wished Ginsburg well Tuesday night. “Our prayers are with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We wish her a speedy recovery as we send our love and well wishes!” McEnany wrote in a Twitter message.
Last summer, Ginsburg announced that she had completed a three-week course of stereotactic ablative radiation therapy — a highly focused treatment that concentrates an intense dose of radiation on a tumor — after a malignancy was discovered on her pancreas.
That was the second treatment for cancer in nine months for Ginsburg. She had a portion of her left lung removed in December, and in past decades was treated for colon and pancreatic cancer.
Last November, Ginsburg was hospitalized at Johns Hopkins after experiencing chills and a fever. She was treated with intravenous antibiotics and fluids.