Yes, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 80. Yes, she's the senior member of the court's liberal wing. And yes, if she resigned now, Obama would probably fill her seat with another liberal justice by the end of his term. But stop telling Ruth Bader Ginsburg to resign: she doesn't want to, yet. That's according to an interview with the New York Times, where the justice issues a thanks, but no thanks, to everyone on the left who's ever asked her to step down ASAP just in case the next president is a Republican. As you might have guessed, Ginsburg gets asked this question a lot. So here's her answer, once again:
“There will be a president after this one, and I’m hopeful that that president will be a fine president,” Ginsburg said, vowing to stay on the court as long as her health held out. She still has work to do. Calling the current court "one of the most activist courts in history" on the basis of its willingness to overturn legislation, Ginsburg more or less indicated that she intended to keep up her side of the work for as long as she wants. But that doesn't mean Ginsburg is set on staying through Obama's second term: in a March New Yorker interview, Ginsburg indicated that she'd stay for at least two years more, if possible.
At this point, the "Should Ruth Bader Ginsburg Resign?" piece is almost a genre. In May, Salon asked Ginsburg to resign now — not by the end of Obama's term in 2016 — in case the Senate goes red in the 2014 elections, which would complicate the nomination process for her replacement. Before the 2012 elections, The New Republic published a piece laying out the case for both Ginsburg and Justice Breyer to retire, giving Obama two chances to add younger, liberal members to the court. Breyer, by the way, is 72. The Daily Beast looked into the context of timed Supreme Court retirements under the provocative headline of "Is Justice Ginsburg Risking the Future of the Supreme Court?" Also in 2012 New York Times laid out the cautionary tale of Justice Thurgood Marshall, who tried to wait out the conservative Reagan and Bush presidencies, only to retire in 1991 and be replaced by Justice Clarence Thomas. One historian laid out how many saw Ginsburg's situation at the time: “If she dies and Romney wins, the Supreme Court will be the most conservative in history.”
For liberals, these arguments are no doubt compelling, and don't warrant dismissal — if Ginsburg's seat goes to a conservative, the closely-divided court would swing to the right. But Ginsburg, who has had cancer twice, is making incremental adjustments for her age only right now: "I don’t water-ski anymore,” she said to the Times, adding, “I haven’t gone horseback riding in four years. I haven’t ruled that out entirely. But water-skiing, those days are over.” Ginsburg, who lifts weights, works into the wee hours of the morning to make Justice Alito mad, and she's not interested in stopping. Deal with it.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.