BY DIANE DIMOND
U.S. Supreme Court justices are appointed to the highest court in the land for life. But I believe it is time for 83-year-old Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to hang up her robe.
We should all take a moment to acknowledge her long and spectacular legal career. Ginsburg has been a true liberal champion for laws concerning women’s rights, voter’s rights and racial justice, and she has long been a proponent of affirmative action programs in higher education.
But now, as she enters her 23rd year on the Supreme Court, she has called into question her own impartiality. This has happened twice over the last few months. The latest instance arose as she sat down for an interview promoting her new book, “My Own Words,” a collection of her writings and speeches.
It’s not like Justice Ginsburg was speaking to some obscure law-school newspaper reporter. No. She has granted interviews to major newspapers, the Associated Press and CNN. She had to have understood that a rare interview with a Supreme Court justice would make news.
Most recently, Justice Ginsburg commented on the controversy surrounding San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his refusal to stand during the playing of the national anthem in protest of the numerous police shootings of unarmed black men across America.
“I think it’s dumb and disrespectful,” Ginsburg said. “I think it’s a terrible thing to do.” She compared Kaepernick’s fieldside bended knee to the act of burning an American flag. “Would I arrest them for doing it? No. … If they want to be stupid, there is no law that should be preventive,” she said.
In response to Ginsburg’s comment, Kaepernick simply said, “It is disappointing to hear a Supreme Court justice call a protest against injustice and oppression ‘stupid’ (and) ‘dumb.'”
Days later, Ginsburg issued an apology for her comments, confessing she knew little about the circumstances of Kaepernick’s protest.
You’d think Justice Ginsburg would have learned her lesson. Back in July, she made news when she broke the age-old taboo of judges offering their personal opinions, especially political opinions. When asked by the Associated Press about the possibility of Donald Trump winning the White House, and what that might mean for future Supreme Court nominees, Ginsburg answered: “I don’t want to think about that possibility. But if it should be, then everything is up for grabs.”
Two days later, on July 10, she was quoted in The New York Times as saying, “I can’t imagine what the country would be with Donald Trump as our president.” And she again addressed what a Trump presidency would mean for the high court: “For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.” She even noted that if her husband, Martin D. Ginsburg, were still alive, he would say of a Trump presidency, “It’s time for us to move to New Zealand.”
Justice Ginsburg told CNN she thinks Trump is a “faker” who “has no consistency about him and says whatever comes into his head at the moment.” Apparently unaware that she had been saying whatever has come into (SET ITAL) her (END ITAL) head about the Republican candidate, she also criticized the media for not demanding more forcefully that Trump release his income tax returns.
She is not alone in that belief. But here’s the problem with all Justice Ginsburg’s public pronouncements: They reveal her bias. Judges are supposed to be guided solely by the law, not by personal opinion. That’s why we very rarely hear a judge discuss current events.
What if the outcome of this year’s presidential election suddenly becomes in dispute, like the 2000 George W. Bush-Al Gore contest? When that occurred, the Supreme Court was called upon to make the final ruling on whether to stop the Florida hand recount.
Does anyone doubt that Trump, who has made a habit of calling our elections “rigged,” will launch another Gore-like challenge if he loses by a close margin? Then what will Justice Ginsburg do? Now that the country knows her anti-Trump stance, she should, at the very least, recuse herself from any case involving the presidential election.
The next president will likely be called upon to fill more than one high-court vacancy. Justice Clarence Thomas is 68. Justices Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy are 78 and 80 years old, respectively.
At age 83, Ruth Bader Ginsburg should be encouraged to retire. Maybe a nice long trip to New Zealand is in order?
Rockland resident Diane Dimond is a syndicated columnist, author, regular guest on TV news programs, and correspondent for Newsweek/Daily Beast. Visit her at www.DianeDimond.net or reach her via email [email protected]