Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not shy about expressing her dislike for the 2016 presumptive Republican presidential nominee, New York City businessman and brand licensor Donald Trump. In their article accompanying last week’s press interview with her, the New York Times remarked on Sunday about Justice Ginsburg‘s fearless deviation from the norm when it comes to publicly commenting on politically charged topics such as a presidential election, something that Supreme Court justices traditionally avoid doing.
“Unless they have a book to sell, Supreme Court justices rarely give interviews. Even then, they diligently avoid political topics. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg takes a different approach. These days, she is making no secret of what she thinks of a certain presidential candidate.”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s choice quote from her interview that is making the media rounds is: “Now it’s time for us to move to New Zealand,” which is actually an imagined quote from Justice Ginsburg’s late husband, prominent tax attorney Martin D. Ginsburg. She explained that this is what her husband would have said had he lived to see the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency, and talked about what would be her worry for the Supreme Court if Trump won.
“I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president. For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.”
Justice Ginsburg reminds us that Supreme Court justices are appointed for life, and while they may choose to retire, if they don’t do so they are entitled to keep their positions on the Court until their deaths. Sadly, Justice Antonin Scalia died in office this past February. The United States Supreme Court has been stuck with an even-numbered eight members, risking ties, since Justice Scalia’s death due to the Republican-controlled Senate’s refusal to even hold a hearing to either confirm or deny President Barack Obama’s appointed replacement, Judge Merrick Garland. Donald Trump has stated that he supports this choice by the Senate.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for her part, does not. She chose to again deviate from the norm in publicly criticizing the Senate for blocking Judge Garland’s path to the Supreme Court. Justice Ginsburg’s colleagues on the current Court have not commented publicly on this issue, nor have they commented on the controversial Donald Trump and his race for the White House against the 2016 presumptive Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Justice Ginsburg not only stated that the Senate is not doing its job properly by refusing to act on President Obama’s appointment to replace Justice Scalia, she actually went as far as to endorse Judge Garland and his qualifications, a choice that may surprise many.
“I think [Judge Merrick Garland] is about as well qualified as any nominee to this court. Super bright and very nice, very easy to deal with. And super prepared. He would be a great colleague. […] That’s [the Senate’s] job. There’s nothing in the Constitution that says the president stops being president in his last year.”
Justice Ginsburg’s last comment references the reason that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his colleagues have given for their refusal to give Judge Garland a hearing — that since President Obama is in his final year as president, he is a “lame duck” and should not get to make any more Supreme Court appointments.
President Obama is not a “lame duck” by the traditional definition of that idiom, which is usually applied to an incumbent sitting president following the election of the next president, when there is a President Elect.
What do you think? Is Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s forthrightness refreshing, or should she follow the long-term example set by other Supreme Court justices and avoid public comment on ongoing political matters?
[Image courtesy of Allison Shelley/Getty Images]