Ginsburg talks partisan rancor, Electoral College and kale

Members of the Supreme Court, (L-R) Chief Justice John Roberts and associate justices Anthony Kennendy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Paul Stevens, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, applaud as former President Barack Obama arrives to deliver his State of the Union speech before a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol February 12, 2013 in Washington.

Story highlights

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave a talk at Stanford Law where she also very briefly touched on politics
  • The Supreme Court justice also said she'd like to change the Electoral College

(CNN)As Washington prepares for the contentious hearings of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, a wistful Ruth Bader Ginsburg lamented Monday night on how the confirmation process has changed, recalling that one Republican senator who supported her back in 1993 "today wouldn't touch me with a ten-foot pole".

The 83-year-old justice allowed that while she is still friends with the senator, Orrin Hatch of Utah, the confirmation process has degraded.
"I wish there were a way I could wave a magic wand and put it back when people were respectful of each other and the Congress was working for the good of the country and not just along party lines," Ginsburg said.
    "Someday there will be great people," she said, "great elected representatives who will say 'enough of this nonsense, let's be the kind of legislature the United States should have.' I hope that day will come when I'm still alive. "
    The comments came during a talk at Stanford Law where Ginsburg also -- very briefly — touched on politics.
    "There are some things that I would like to change, one is the Electoral College," she said, "but that would require a constitutional amendment and amending our Constitution is powerfully hard to do."
    During a lively question-and-answer period, one student dared to ask about something that is often the elephant in the room: her age.
    "A lot of people have been expressing encouragement that you eat more Kale — so to speak — so that you can continue doing the public service work that you are doing for as long as possible," the student began.
    "I was wondering," he continued, "who do you want to eat more Kale in Washington?"
    Ginsburg didn't miss a beat. "Justice (Anthony) Kennedy," she said to laughter.
    After the applause died down she continued, "There are three of us on the current court who are well beyond what the French call 'a certain age,' so it's Justice Breyer (the youngest) and the two octogenarians: Justice Kennedy and me."
    "A very important part of my life is my personal trainer who has been with me since 1999 and now also trains Justice (Elena) Kagan and most recently Justice (Stephen) Breyer."
    The moderator of the event warned the audience that Ginsburg would not speak directly about issues that could come to the court, including President Donald Trump's executive orders on immigration and travel. Nor would she address his nomination of Gorsuch to replace the vacancy on the Supreme Court following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
    Ginsburg did speak about the death penalty.
    "If I were queen, there would be no death penalty," but she added that unlike justices in the past who said that the death penalty is unconstitutional in all circumstances -- she still takes part in deliberations and does her best to move the law in the direction "to which it seems to be going."