Ruth Bader Ginsburg Is The Oldest Supreme Court Justice, But May Not Retire During Trump’s First Term

The timing of her retirement could result in a highly politicized situation.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Is The Oldest Supreme Court Justice, But May Not Retire During Trump's First Term
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The timing of her retirement could result in a highly politicized situation.

Many Americans have long watched the career of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, wondering if or when the 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice will step down. According to a recent statement from Ginsburg herself, it may be a while. By the sounds of it, she doesn’t plan to go anywhere for “at least five more years” according to a report by the Washington Post. While the Supreme Court is supposed to be a politics-free zone, the recent confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh and the movement to the right that it creates clouds that concept a bit.

When Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement during President Trump’s second year as president, conservatives celebrated their opportunity to fill a spot on the Supreme Court. Although he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, Kennedy’s vote didn’t always align with conservative views and was seen as a little unpredictable. This was their chance to seat someone who was more staunchly conservative and swing the leaning of the highest court in the land further to the right for decades. It’s widely believed that this was accomplished with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh.

For years, many have thought Ruth Bader Ginsburg would retire any time, but they have thought wrong. Appointed by President Clinton in 1993 at the age of 60, she has now filled a seat on the Supreme Court for 25 years. She was the second female appointed to the court and has developed a reputation for her passionate dissents on court decisions with which she does not agree. She has consistently voted from a liberal perspective and is seen as an outspoken defender of liberal thought.

In an interview with CNN, when asked when she expects to retire, Ginsburg said, “I’m now 85. My senior colleague Justice John Paul Stevens, he stepped down when he was 90, so I think I have about at least five more years.” Evidence of this expectation lies in the fact that she has hired law clerks for at least two more terms.

In five years, it will be 2023, but Ginsburg didn’t say “five years,” she said, “at least five more years.” If she pushed it out to 2024, she would be retiring during the last years of Trump’s second term (if he wins the next presidential election). In that situation, following their own previous declaration that a Supreme Court justice should not be confirmed during a presidential election year, a lame-duck president should not make the appointment. Trump would be a lame-duck president in 2024.

So while politics are not supposed to come into play with the Supreme Court, presidents do tend to appoint nominees they feel are positioned on a spot along the political spectrum that is similar to their own. That fact is nothing new. Politics may play a larger role, especially following the confirmation of conservative Brett Kavanaugh, in the appointment of someone to fill the spot vacated by Ruth Bader Ginsburg if that vacancy happens as a possible second term of President Trump comes to a close.