She certainly has incentive enough for seven years, if not the five. After attending a play about the late Justice Antonin Scalia in New York, Ruth Bader Ginsburg told the audience that she has no thoughts of retirement. At least publicly, Ginsburg gave no political reason for her determination to continue working, however:
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she hopes to stay on the Supreme Court until the age of 90.
“I’m now 85,” Ginsburg said on Sunday. “My senior colleague, Justice John Paul Stevens, he stepped down when he was 90, so think I have about at least five more years.”
She has already hired law clerks for at least two more terms.
And she very well might go the whole seven years. Ginsburg’s a known fitness buff whose daily regimen would leave some half her age gasping for breath. She infamously fell asleep during a State of the Union speech in 2015, which she blamed on wine at dinner earlier in the evening, but she hasn’t shown many other signs of slowing down. Nor has she expressed any desire for retirement at all, even a little.
It was that lack of desire for exiting that caused some backlash within the Notorious RBG Fan Club in 2015-16. Liberals wanted her to step down during Obama’s term as a way to ensure that the seat would remain progressive for another generation, but Ginsburg ignored the calls. In some way, those making the demands must be grateful for her obstinacy now, after watching Mitch McConnell refuse to move on Merrick Garland’s nomination in the final year of Obama’s presidency. Had Ginsburg given in and resigned in late 2015 or 2016, Donald Trump would have had two Supreme Court seats to fill in his first days as president.
In other words, don’t count on another Supreme Court seat for Trump to fill in this term. Most of the calculations on that assume that either Ginsburg or Stephen Breyer will vacate their seats, one way or another. Neither of them seem inclined to leave, however, and Breyer is only 79 years old. Unlike Ginsburg, Breyer has said he “will eventually” retire, but it’s not going to be any time soon, almost certainly not in Trump’s term.
If Democrats retake the White House in 2021, perhaps Ginsburg won’t be quite as keen on staying on the job, but don’t bet on it. It sounds like she’s determined to at least match Stevens’ record. And don’t talk to her about term limits either:
Ginsburg, speaking Sunday in New York at a performance of “The Originalist,” a play about Scalia, ruled out the possibility of placing term limits on judges because to do so would require a Constitutional amendment. “We hold our offices during good behavior,” she said, “and most judges are very well behaved.”
Hmmm. The Constitution doesn’t explicitly prohibit term limits on the judiciary either, which does leave Congress an opening to pass a statute. If Congress did pass such a law, it would undoubtedly get challenged in court, and so the Supreme Court might have to weigh in on this issue. Looks like we can count Ginsburg as a no.