Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, addressing the annual conference of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit on Friday, signaled her admiration for 2nd Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the nominee to replace retiring justice David Souter.
"As much as I will miss Justice Souter's company," she said, reviewing top Court events of the last year, "I was cheered by the next banner headline," namely President Barack Obama's selection of Sotomayor as the next associate justice.
"The nominee will bring to the Supreme Court, as she did to the district court and then the Court of Appeals, a wealth of experience in law and in life," Ginsburg said. "And I am so glad no longer to be the lone woman on the court." Implicitly assuming that Sotomayor will be confirmed, she added, "I look forward to a new colleague well-equipped to handle the challenges our work presents."
It is unusual, but not unheard of, for sitting justices to comment favorably on possible future colleagues. While the ultimately unsuccessful nomination of Robert Bork was pending in 1987, Justice John Paul Stevens publicly described him as a "well-qualified candidate," and then-Justice Byron White let it be known that it would be "all right with me" if Bork joined the Court.
C-SPAN aired Ginsburg's speech on Saturday, and the video is available here. The conference took place at the Sagamore Resort on Lake George in Bolton Landing, New York.
Ginsburg's comments about Sotomayor were not the only ones of interest to Court-watchers. Other nuggets:
-- Noting that 20 per cent of the Court's rulings this term have been decided by 5-4 votes, Ginsburg added mysteriously that "there will be more" 5-4 decisions before the term ends.
-- The contentious case of Ricci v. DeStefano, brought by non-African-American New Haven firefighters who claim they were victims of reverse discrimination when they were denied promotions, "one can safely predict, will be among the last to come out before the term ends."
-- Another controversial pending case. Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder, a challenge to the Voting Rights Act, is "perhaps the most important case of the term." She added, "What the Supreme Court will do with this case remains to be seen."
-- With evident glee, Ginsburg mentioned three 5-4 decisions this term -- Oregon v. Ice, Vaden v. Discovery Bank, and Arizona v. Gant -- in which she was the only justice in the majority in all three. "I emerged in these cases as the swing justice."
-- Monday June 15 is "D-Day" at the Court, Ginsburg said. That, she explained, is when "all the pending decisions must be in circulation," meaning that draft majority opinions have to be ready to be circulated to the other justices for comment by Monday. She mentioned the deadline by way of explaining why she needed to return to Washington on Friday, rather than staying at the conference through the weekend.
Check back here for an additional report on Justice Ginsburg's remarks.