Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn’t attend the Supreme Court bench for a second consecutive day on Tuesday, giving rise to speculations whether her recent health concerns will keep her off the bench for an extended period of time.
Chief Justice John Roberts noted Ginsburg’s absence when the judges started oral arguments, repeating his remarks from Monday in which he said Ginsburg is “unable to be present” for the court’s sitting, but will take part in the decisions using transcripts of the arguments and court briefs.
The 85-year-old justice missed her first oral argument this week in more than 25 years as she recovers at home from a surgical procedure on Dec. 21 that removed two cancerous nodules from the lower lobe of her left lung, according to The Hill.
Roberts did not say whether Ginsburg will be back at court on Wednesday.
“I don’t want to speculate about her health, but it doesn’t seem like a good sign,” said Elizabeth Slattery, a legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation. “Perhaps she’s just resting up and will be back up to 100 percent soon.”
Slattery, who hosts the podcast “SCOTUS 101,” noted that justices like the late William Rehnquist have missed arguments before. Rehnquist, who served as chief justice, was unable to hear dozens of cases after he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and underwent a tracheotomy in 2004.
Christine Venter, a Notre Dame Law School professor, noted in a 2017 journal article that Rehnquist missed oral arguments in 44 cases during his cancer treatment, but still assigned himself to write the majority opinion in four cases that term.
Ginsburg is a judge belonging to the liberal camp. She has been celebrated in a book, documentary, and a movie. This exposure, however, has only put more focus on her health in recent months, and with each development comes fresh worries about whether she’ll be able to stay on the bench until a Democrat becomes President.