(PLEASE NOTE: Ginsberg is my favorite Justice – she’s smart and savvy and full of mischief.)
It’s futile to pretend any more that the Supreme Court is non-partisan. Justices are people (the human, not the corporate kind – at least not yet) and don’t have identical values or beliefs. Their perspectives – on law, history, social justice, the U.S. Constitution – are informed by cultural identity, ethnicity, education, religion and probably gender. This has always been true.
Of course a Court is, ideally, charged with rising above the personal and interpreting the law. But we don’t get ideal; we get nine mere mortals who must somehow work it all out and render ‘judgement’ on a legal appeal. (Note to Scalia: judgement involves judging. All things are not self-evident.)
Today’s Court isn’t doing too well with that ‘rising above’ thing. A lot of decisions are nakedly political and too much of the time we have 5 to 4 votes favoring the Right. Also:
- The 2014 elections could very well change the majority in the Senate.
- Justice Ginsberg is the oldest person on the bench and will be 81 in 2014.
- Justice Ginsberg, while mentally acute (unlike Scalia, the next oldest), is physically unwell and has had cancer more than once. Her health could decline further.
- A Republican Senate can deny Obama a majority on any Supreme Court nominee. (UPDATE: James reminds me in comments that confirming a Supreme still requires the ‘super majority’ of 60 votes, but still . . . )
- If Republicans take the White House and hold the Senate in 2016, that doesn’t bear thinking about.
She and Scalia have for decades enjoyed a close friendship, so perhaps they could make the leap together – before 2014. Solidarity and all. (A bit of trivia – after Reagan nominated Scalia in 1986, he was confirmed by a Senate vote of 98-2.)