Impending distraction?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (probably the most left wing justice on the U.S. Supreme Court) has pancreatic cancer, and she is hinting that there will be a vacancy on the court soon:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has hinted at a possible vacancy "soon" at the US Supreme Court, without indicating who would be leaving.

Speaking Friday at New England Law Boston's annual "Law Day," Ginsburg told students that the nine justices only take pictures together when a new member joins the high court.

"We haven't had any photos for some time, but surely we will soon," she said.

"The dynamic is a little different when someone leaves."

Ginsburg, who turns 76 on Sunday, declined to elaborate on her comments and did not take questions from reporters at the event.

She underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer in early February but has returned to the bench.

Despite speculation that she might leave the court, Ginsburg has on several occasions expressed her intention to remain on the court for several more years.

For anyone with pancreatic cancer, living several more years is highly unlikely. It's considered the deadliest of all forms of cancer, with only 5% of patients living five years.

I don't share Ginsburg's judicial philosophy, of course, but I feel very sorry for her. I think we can expect a vacancy in the next few months. If not weeks; why would someone in her position make a cryptic remark like that unless resignation is imminent?

It's tough to imagine Barack Obama appointing anyone further to the left than Ginsburg, though, so I doubt her departure will make much of a difference in practice.

But the political struggle and debate over her successor will certainly provide a distraction -- for both sides.

posted by Eric on 03.15.09 at 11:39 AM


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