Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke Thursday to an audience of judges of the Second Circuit Judicial Conference in New York
Her comments mark the furthest a sitting justice has gone to push for a fully staffed court since Antonin Scalia died
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Thursday that having only eight justices “is not a good number for a multi-member court.”
The comments mark the furthest a sitting justice has gone, since the sudden death of the late Justice Antonin Scalia earlier this year, to signal that the court would function better with a fully staffed bench.
Ginsburg was giving an end of the term report to an audience of mostly judges of the Second Circuit Judicial Conference in New York. A copy of her remarks were released by the court.
She mentioned the fact that the court had deadlocked 4-4 twice so far.”That means no opinions and no precedential value,” she said, adding “an equal division is essentially the same as a denial of review.”
The justice’s comments echoed those of progressive groups who are urging the Senate to move ahead with confirmation hearings for Judge Merrick Garland. Senate republicans are refusing to hold hearings until after the next election.
Ginsburg noted that one of the 4-4 cases came in a case concerning public sector unions, a case she called on of the term’s “most closely watched.”
In her summary, she quoted statistics about the 67 cases the court has granted this term out of more than 6,000 petitions. So far the Court has handed down opinions in 42 cases. She also picked out statistics concerning particular justices. Justice Stephen Breyer was known for asking one of the longest questions of the term, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor was “once again” the justice who asked the most questions at oral arguments.
“Justice Thomas, after a 10-year silence, astonished all in attendance by asking nine questions, all in the same case,” she said. She also reminded the audience that at one point, a lawyer mistakenly called her Justice O’Connor – a reference to the first female Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. “The first woman on the Supreme Court retired a decade ago, yet confusion of the two of us lingers,” she said.
The bulk of Ginsburg’s comments were dedicated to a remembrance of Scalia, who died suddenly in February and who was her best friend on the bench despite the fact that they were ideological opposites.
“Justice Scalia was a man of many talents, a jurist of captivating brilliance, high spirits, and quick wit, possessed of a rare talent for making even the most somber judge smile.”
“The Court is a paler place without him,” she said.
At the end of her remarks she said she looked forward to addressing the Circuit conference again next year. “I anticipate reporting on the decisions of a full bench,” she said.