In a rare interview with the Associated Press, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg this week emphatically reiterated what she has said in the past: that she does not intend to leave the Court anytime soon. She told the AP's Mark Sherman that she still views Louis Brandeis as her benchmark in terms of tenure, which would mean at least five more years as a justice. There was also this passage from the story:
Ginsburg sought to tamp down the speculation in a lighthearted manner. She mentioned a painting that usually hangs in her office by the German emigre artist Josef Albers. The painting is part of a traveling exhibition and is supposed to be returned in 2012. "If anyone asks how long I'll be here, at least until my Albers comes back," she said."
Since she has made her wish to remain on the Court clear before, why say it again? Probably for several reasons. With the departure of the 90-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens, in June, the 77-year-old Ginsburg is now the Court's oldest justice. Her bouts with cancer, her usual frailness, as well as the death in late June of her husband Marty, have all fueled new rounds of speculation about her possible departure.
But she has apparently come through her illnesses in good form, she has continued her travels, and said her work schedule helped her cope with the loss of her husband of 56 years. She was on the bench the day after he died. The interview may in part have been an effort by Ginsburg to let friends know that she is moving past the effects of her husband's illness and death.Ginsburg's other motivation in giving the interview was to welcome Elena Kagan, who is within hours of likely Senate confirmation to replace Stevens on the Court. The prospect of three female justices on the nine-member Court is "one of the most exhilarating developments," Ginsburg told AP.
The firmness of her commitment to remain on the Court may end -- at least temporarily -- the Washington parlor game of speculation about the next appointee to the high court. There has been little if any speculation about a justice besides Ginsburg departing. Assuming that health allows Ginsburg to fulfill her wish for long tenure, and assuming no other justice leaves this year or next, President Obama's first-term appointees will likely total two: Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
"The Senate can go about its business for the next three or four years without having to deal with a voluntary vacancy," said Thomas Goldstein, appellate co-chief at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and publisher of Scotusblog. "After five years of change, nobody is going anywhere."
Goldstein said the Ginsburg interview was remarkable for its candor about personal matters such as her health and her career plans. "She's an unusual justice -- so open," he said. "Usually the Court is like Fort Knox when it comes to that kind of information."