Monday, February 23, 2009

Judicial Death Watch? Senator's Comments Raise Eyebrows

Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky raised eyebrows recently when he predicted that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who recently had surgery for pancreatic cancer, would soon die and that this would present an opportunity for a conservative judicial appointment.

Here's a clip from the article:
During a wide-ranging 30-minute speech on Saturday at the Hardin County Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner, Bunning said he supports conservative judges "and that's going to be in place very shortly because Ruth Bader Ginsburg. . .has cancer."

"Bad cancer. The kind that you don't get better from," he told a crowd of about 100 at the old State Theater.

"Even though she was operated on, usually, nine months is the longest that anybody would live after (being diagnosed) with pancreatic cancer," he said.

While it is true that Supreme Court observers have often expressed concerns about Justice Ginsburg's health, this is the first time I have heard a public official predict that she will die. It seems a tad uncouth.


Gordon said...

It is a tad uncouth. Conservatives should be worried; Obama could well appoint someone who is further left than Ginsburg, as well as young and healthy.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Well, I would like anther liberal on the bench, but if the person simply replaced Ginsburg, that would not change the ideological balance of the Court. It would still have 4 liberals, 4conservatives, and 1 moderate-to-right-left-nondescript justice.

In many ways, the court takes its cues from public opinion. When public opinion is mixed, judges have more latitude on big social issues. And if the Court itself is divided, moderates can dictate where the majority lands.

The Rehnquist Court (and now Roberts) has certainly made life harder for plaintiffs seeking to enforce civil rights (especially federal rights against disobedient states). But this is a reflection of Republican dominance of the White House since 1964. Given the level of dominance, it's almost surprising that the Court has not done even more to curtail civil rights. But this simply shows that there are political checks on the Court; liberals have balanced conservative legal impulses (Clinton appointed Ginsburg and Breyer; a liberal Congress reversed the Court on civil rights a few times).

Judging is more often a political process than people want to admit. Actually, many people concede that the Court is political, but only if they disagree with its rulings. Conservatives complain about judicial activism only when the Court's opinions are liberal, and vice versa.

hysperia said...

Well for gawdssakes I'd think people would have just a bit of respect for an ill human being, never mind a Supreme Court Justice, than to start predicting her death which, of course, no one can predict anyway - it's something not even a doctor will do/can do. It isn't just uncouth, it's mean, nasty and creepy!

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Hypseria said: "It isn't just uncouth, it's mean, nasty and creepy!"

Is that your final answer? Yes - it was just wrong on many levels.

Nell said...

Justice Ginsberg is back to work, just 16 days after major surgery--God bless her!

Pancreatic cancer is usually deadly because it has no symptoms until after it has metastasized. Because of her previous cancer history, Justice's Ginsberg's pancreatic tumor was caught at a relatively early stage as a result of routine screening. Her prognosis is better than most.

My own mother lived for seven years following a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and died of causes totally unrelated to her cancer.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Thanks for the insight, Nell. Apparently, the Senator has now apologized.

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