Close on the heels of the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, it appears there will soon be another vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. Current Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is coping with a malignant melanoma, she has told her law clerks. Ginsburg was treated in 1999 for colon cancer and had an operation in 2009 for pancreatic cancer. She is likely to resign in January 2019.
She is generally viewed as belonging to the liberal wing of the court. Ginsburg has written notable majority opinions, including United States v. Virginia, Olmstead v. L.C., and Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc. Ginsburg made her name as an advocate for women's rights and is one of four liberals now on the bench, to which she was appointed in 1993 by then President Bill Clinton.
She has disclosed tokey Democratic members of the Senate her medical condition; these members include ranking Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee Dianne Feinstein. This explains in part the attitude of the Democrats during the Kavanaugh nomination, carefully putting together weak 37-year old allegations against Kavanaugh by women he barely remembers knowing in high school and college. The court's 5-4 conservative majority was restored last month when the Senate confirmed Kavanaugh, who was President Donald Trump's appointee, after a nomination process in which Kavanaugh denied the sexual assault allegation.
“Washington is slowly recuperating from the bitter battle over Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Another vacancy on the bench would surely lead to an explosive fight with liberals trying in vain to prevent President Trump from turning the court into a conservative stronghold with a third nominee,” according to The Hill.
In the wake of two Trump appointees so far – Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh – some on the left have faulted Ginsburg and 80-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer, another aging member of the court’s liberal wing, for not resigning when former President Obama was in office.
“Given that she wants her vision of the law to prevail, it was a mistake to hang in there indefinitely,” said Daniel Epps, an associate professor of law at the Washington University School of Law. “If she stays for five more years from now, that’s 2023. Even if there’s a Democratic president elected in 2020, it’s quite possible that Republicans might control the Senate in 2023.”
According to The Washington Post, Supreme Court justices are supposed to be apolitical, and they aren't supposed to time their retirements in order that they are replaced with a like-minded justice. But Ginsburg apparently tried to do so when she said, “I’m now 85. My senior colleague Justice John Paul Stevens, he stepped down when he was 90. So think I have about at least five more years.”
“Indeed, it almost seems to send a concerted signal to liberals not to worry about her handing President Trump another Supreme Court vacancy,” according to the Post.
Is Trump going to get a chance to nominate a third conservative jurist? It seems likely, and the drama of a fight between the liberals and the conservatives seems ripe.