Life

Heart stent for Ginsburg revives talk of liberal jurist’s time left on court

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg AP

The decision to leave the pinnacle of the legal world never is an easy one, even for justices with health problems.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist remained even as he suffered through thyroid cancer. He died in September 2005, still chief justice.

Rehnquist’s death allowed President George W. Bush to nominate another conservative, John Roberts, the current chief justice. The Roberts court has five justices appointed by Republican presidents and four appointed by Democrats.

Ginsburg has repeatedly rebuffed suggestions that it’s time to step down. She remains one of the court’s fastest writers and she has continued to make frequent public appearances around the country.

“So who do you think could be nominated now that would get through the Senate that you would rather see on the court than me?” she said in an Associated Press interview in July.

And as for the next presidential election, she has said on more than one occasion, “I am hopeful about 2016.”

Laurence Tribe, a law professor at Harvard University, welcomed the news that Ginsburg plans to be back at the court next week, and he said she’d already hired one of his research assistants to clerk for her the year after next. “I expect her to still be there and thriving,” he added.

He had harsh words for those liberals who were pushing for Ginsburg to retire,

“With all respect to some of my liberal friends, I think they are being ridiculous,” he said. “She is not a quitter.”

In an October interview in The New Yorker magazine, Obama said Ginsburg was “doing a wonderful job.”

“She is one of my favorite people,” Obama told the magazine. “Life tenure means she gets to decide, not anybody else, when she chooses to go.”

In 2005, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said nothing publicly when he had a stent inserted to keep an artery open after experiencing mild chest pain. The court revealed the procedure when Kennedy returned to the hospital to have the stent replaced ten months later.

Stents are mesh scaffoldings inserted into about half a million people in the U.S. each year to prop open arteries clogged by years of cholesterol buildup. Doctors guide a narrow tube through a blood vessel in the groin or an arm, inflate a tiny balloon to flatten the blockage, and then push the stent into place.

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