Ginsburg misses oral arguments for first time since seated on Supreme Court

January 8, 2019

Ginsburg misses oral arguments for first time since seated on Supreme Court Image Source: YouTube

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg missed oral arguments for the first time in more than 25 years on the court Monday while recovering from a cancer surgery last month.

The Supreme Court made the shocking announcement on Monday while Ginsburg recuperated from a December treatment to remove cancerous growths from her lungs. The rare absence continued for a second day on Tuesday.

Recovering, Ginsburg misses arguments for first time

The Supreme Court heard two cases Tuesday and will hear one case on Wednesday and more next week, but it’s not clear when Ginsburg plans to return. Ginsburg was absent when the court convened on Monday and again on Tuesday.

Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said Monday that Ginsburg was working from home while recovering from the December 21 surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Chief Justice John Roberts noted her absence at the opening of arguments Tuesday, saying as he had on Monday that Ginsburg is “unable to be present” and that she will participate in arguments using transcripts of oral arguments and court briefs.

Ginsburg had never missed arguments until this week despite two previous cancer treatments in 1999 and 2009 and two instances of broken ribs, the second of which came after a shocking fall one day after Election Day. The cancerous nodules in her left lung were found in an X-ray to treat the injury.

Ginsburg has also been present to hear arguments despite heart surgery in 2014 and her husband’s fatal bout with cancer, so her two-day absence is unusual.

The Supreme Court said the day of her cancer surgery that no more treatment is planned and that doctors found no trace of any remaining disease. President Trump wished Ginsburg a “full and speedy recovery!” on Twitter the day of her surgery.

Health troubles have left concerned

The justice promised in July that she would stay on the court for another five years after Anthony Kennedy retired, fueling anxiety on the left that President Trump could add two, three, or even more justices to the Supreme Court, solidifying a conservative majority for generations to come. Kavanaugh was eventually confirmed and Ginsburg’s seat is generally considered to be next.

She has hired clerks for the 2020 term, a sign that she intends to follow through. But many on the left have nevertheless expressed concern about her ongoing health troubles. The rare absence underscored Ginsburg’s status as the court’s leading liberal and the anxiety that many on the left feel about the time she has left on the court.

Trump has already appointed two conservatives to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, in as many years. Liberals have expressed disappointment that Ginsburg didn’t retire during a time that was more politically safe, when President Obama was still in the White House and a progressive successor would have been guaranteed.

Ginsburg is adored by the left for championing abortion and progressive values and has become something of a political pop-culture icon, referred to lovingly by fans as “The Notorious R.B.G.”

The judge is more than 30 years older than the freshman, 53 year-old Brett Kavanaugh. The second oldest justice is Stephen Breyer, 80.


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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.