Don't tell Ruth Bader Ginsburg to retire

Now that she is on the Court, she’s being told she doesn’t belong there any more. I doubt she’s paying attention.

These reflections are sparked by a recent column in the Los Angeles Times by Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the University of California at Irvine School of Law. Chemerinsky is a giant—the author of popular textbooks and treatises, he has also argued five cases in front of the high court. He speaks from a progressive viewpoint, and he suggests that Ginsburg retire at the end of this term. Delaying her departure even until 2015, he argues, risks allowing a Republican president to fill her seat. That would tip the Court’s dynamics in a radically conservative direction, imperiling the right to choose abortion as well as settled law on same-sex marriage, the Affordable Care Act, and the environment.

I don’t know Justice Ginsburg. Like anyone who covers the Court, however, I am fascinated by this woman warrior with the body of a sparrow and the heart of a lion. Now 81 (Chemerinsky’s column ran the day after her birthday), she has survived both colon and pancreatic cancer (last month marked the fifth year after her most recent cancer surgery). Her voice at oral argument is sometimes indistinct. At other times she appears to doze.

But woe betide the advocate who believes that she is not listening, or who underestimates her knowledge of the record! Her questions are aggressive and insightful, and her written opinions are more vigorous than ever.