Justice Ginsburg Hospitalized

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent the weekend in the hospital over concerns about a possible infection.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg whose health and longevity is probably one of the most-watched things in Washington these days was hospitalized on Friday night after complaining of ‘fever and chills’ late in the day:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on Friday night with a possible infection, the Supreme Court said Saturday night, the latest health scare to confront the 86-year-old senior member of the court.

Ginsburg, the leader of the court’s liberal wing, has been treated twice in the past year for cancer. She missed a recent session of the court’s arguments with what a spokeswoman described as a stomach bug, although she returned to the bench last week.

The court waited 24 hours before disclosing Ginsburg’s most recent health scare.

“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore last night after experiencing chills and fever earlier in the day,” the court said in a news release issued Saturday night.

“She was initially evaluated at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., before being transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital for further evaluation and treatment of any possible infection. With intravenous antibiotics and fluids, her symptoms have abated and she expects to be released from the hospital as early as Sunday morning. Further updates will be made when available,” it said.

At an appearance at the end of August, Ginsburg said that her work on the Supreme Court has “kept me going” through four bouts of cancer and that she was “on my way to being very well.”

The Supreme Court said Aug. 23 that Ginsburg had completed a three-week course of stereotactic ablative radiation therapy — a highly focused treatment that concentrates an intense dose of radiation on a tumor — after a malignancy was discovered on her pancreas.

It was the second treatment for cancer in nine months for Ginsburg. She had a portion of her left lung removed in December and in past decades was treated for colon and pancreatic cancer. She broke ribs in a fall in November 2018, which resulted in the discovery of the lung cancer.
But before a roaring crowd at the National Book Festival in Washington at the end of the summer, she declared: “This audience can see that I am alive.”

She has kept up a busy schedule of public speaking since then and has been through two sessions of the court’s oral arguments, though she missed one day of arguments because of flulike symptoms. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said Ginsburg would participate in deciding the cases by reading the briefs and transcripts of the oral arguments.

She was on the bench Monday when the court met to issue orders and swear in new members of the Supreme Court bar.

Here’s the press release regarding Justice Ginsburg from the Supreme Court’s press office:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, last night after experiencing chills and fever earlier in the day. She was initially evaluated at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. before being transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital for further evaluation and treatment of any possible infection. With intravenous antibiotics and fluids, her symptoms have abated and she expects to be released from the hospital as early as Sunday morning. Further updates will be made when available

Based on the reports it does not appear that Justice Ginsburg’s condition is serious, but when you’re dealing with someone who is 85 years old and has the health history that Ginsburg has had in the past and most recently, it’s obviously better to play it safe. This is especially true given the medical history that Ginsburg has had just over the course of a year. It was just a year ago, of course, that she underwent treatment last December for what was described at the time as cancerous nodules on one of her lungs. That treatment was considered successful, but it did result in Ginsburg being unable to participate in most of the Court’s January sitting, although she did participate in the cases by reading the transcripts of argument and participating in the post-argument discussion of the cases with her colleagues via teleconference. Ginsburg was declared cancer-free from that December treatment in mid-January and seemed by all observers to be in fine health for the remainder of the term that ended in June. In August, she was treated for an early version of pancreatic cancer, a condition that is among the most serious forms of cancer given the fact that it is among the hardest to detect until it has essentially become untreatable. Fortunately, in Ginsburg’s case, it appears to have been caught at an early stage and she was able to return to the Court when the new term began in October and participate in all the oral arguments that have taken place since then. Prior to these incidents, Ginsburg had been treated for colon cancer in 1999 and early-stage pancreatic cancer in 2009.

At 86, and on the verge of turning 87 in March, Ginsburg is the oldest and second-longest serving Justice on the Court today and is among the oldest Justices ever to serve on the nation’s highest court. Obviously, given her age and her medical history, any report regarding her health that results in hospitalization even as a precautionary measure. Chills and fever may seem like minor symptoms, they could easily be indicative of a viral or other infection that could be problematic for someone of advanced age, especially when they have an immune system that has been through four bouts with cancer over the past 20 years.

Additionally, Ginsburg’s advanced age and her previous medical history mean that any development like this raises concerns about her health and how long she might be able to continue serving on the Court. As I’ve noted before, she has given no indication that she intends to step down voluntarily any time soon, and has at least implicitly made it clear that she would not do so as long as Donald Trump was President. More specifically, she has said publicly that she intends to continue in her position as long as she believes she is able to continue doing the job. Here’s hoping that she’ll be healthy and ready to go when the Court reconvenes for the December round of oral argument beginning the week after Thanksgiving.

All of this goes a long way toward saying that the Supreme Court ought to be a far more important issue in the Presidential race than it already is. A good part of the reason for that has been the fact that, as a rule, Republicans have historically been much more organized about campaigning on the issue of judicial appointments than Democrats have been. It’s because of this that we’ve seen Trump and the Republican Senate confirm District Court and Court of Appeals Judges in record numbers, and why President Trump has already been able to appoint two Supreme Court Justices. Given that three of the nine Justices are over the age of 70 and two of them (Breyer and Ginsburg) are over 80, it’s likely that whoever wins the election in 2020 will have the opportunity to appoint additional Supreme Court Justices. We’ve already seen the importance of the Judiciary several times over the course of the Trump Presidency. Democrats would be wise to pay a lot more attention to this issue than they have in the past.

Update: CNN is reporting that Ginsburg has been released from the hospital as expected:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was released from the hospital and is home after having experienced chills and a fever, the Supreme Court announced Sunday.”She is home and doing well,” A court spokeswoman said.

Ginsburg, 86, was initially evaluated at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC, before being transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore Friday night for treatment of any possible infection. The high court said Saturday that Ginsburg’s symptoms had abated after receiving IV antibiotics and fluids.

Her hospital trip came just days after Ginsburg returned to the bench after missing a day in court due to a stomach bug. On Friday, Ginsburg had participated in the regular closed-door conference with other justices, according to a court spokeswoman.

A four-time cancer survivor, Ginsburg has had a lengthy history of medical issues. In August, she was treated for pancreatic cancer, and last fall, nearly two months before she underwent surgery to remove the cancerous nodules, the liberal justice received treatment for three ribs she fractured during a fall in her office.

This is obviously good news and hopefully means that Ginsburg will remain in good health in the coming year.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Law and the Courts, Supreme Court, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mister Bluster says:

    May she be well and survive us all!

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  2. This current saga needs to be cautionary tale for SCOTUS members in terms of thinking about strategic retirements.

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  3. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Perhaps it should be a cautionary tale for voters thinking about electing Presidents.

    At some point, the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade. And then a whole lot of people who just assume abortion is just legal and who don’t think about things like settled law will suddenly realize these things are important.

  4. Bill says:

    I have chronicled my fight with stage V cancer in a post here once but the one time I came close to dying wasn’t cancer related. In 2008 I needed surgery for an ascending aortic aneurysm on top of my other medical issues. Two days after I had surgery, I contracted pneumonia. My immune system was already weak and the pneumonia made me touch and go for a few days.

    When fighting cancer small medical issues can become major ones.

  5. As I note in an update Ginsburg has been released from the hospital as expected.

  6. @Gustopher: Well, I would agree if presidential elections were a consistent reflection of actual popular preference.

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  7. de stijl says:

    Be well, Notorious R.B.G.

    We need you for another 340 some odd days!

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  8. de stijl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And that the person with the most votes cast for them actually wins.

  9. @de stijl: That was what I was getting at.

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  10. de stijl says:

    I love the fact that Ginsburg was utterly clueless when folks started referring to her Notorious RBG.

    Staff had to inform her about Biggie Smalls and the fluidity of naming conventions in that scene, and that being dubbed Notorious RBG was a good thing.

    Fascinating.

  11. de stijl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I was under-lining.

  12. JKB says:

    You know how they report that most of the lifetime healthcare costs occur in the last year of life of the elderly? Well, they are going to blow the average out of the water keeping Ginsberg alive for the next 12 months.

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  13. Kit says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    This current saga needs to be cautionary tale for SCOTUS members in terms of thinking about strategic retirements.

    By saga, do you mean how Republicans are acting these past few years, or how Ginsburg is trying to hang on?

  14. @Kit: Mostly, I mean the fact that there will be long-term consequences if a two-time cancer survivor in her late 80s dies before the current presidential term ends. This is not a reasonable way to run a major branch of the federal government.

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  15. de stijl says:

    @JKB:

    You are a ghoul.

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  16. Kurtz says:

    @de stijl:

    You’re being too kind to JKB. Ghoul would be an improvement on whatever state of being that guy is.

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  17. Gustopher says:

    @Kit: I don’t see a big difference between refusing to retire while they don’t like the president (RGB), and offering to retire because they do like the president (Kennedy).

    I think the next Democratic President should pack the court, and when Republicans howl, offer a compromise — a law that puts appointments on a regular schedule and lets the Supreme Court vary in size. It would cut the potential swing of the court with each departure in half (lose one from Party A, but avoid the potential lose one from A and get one from B).

    If the court gets too large, we can lock the doors and not let anyone out until they resort to cannibalism or something. Haven’t really worked that part out.

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  18. de stijl says:

    @Gustopher:

    Totally on board for a more rational process other than the President picks it if the Senate approves.

    With one major sticking point.

    There must be payback for Garland. McConnell and Senate Rs must be punished for that.

    I am not vindictive by nature, but that was a gambit that must be punished, and the notion flushed down the toilet.

    No justice, no peace until that issue is squared up and settled.

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  19. Senyordave says:

    @de stijl: We need you for another 340 some odd days!
    She could retire Jan 1st, 2020. After all, McConnell set the precedent that SC justices will not be voted on in the final year of a president’s term.
    Of course that is predicated on McConnell being a man of integrity.

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  20. de stijl says:

    @Senyordave:

    See my comment above.

  21. Pylon says:

    @Gustopher: Not only did Kennedy retire to take advantage of the fact the president was favourable, he got his former clerk selected as his replacement net. There is more and more evidence this was purposive.

  22. gVOR08 says:

    @Senyordave:

    Of course that is predicated on McConnell being a man of integrity.

    Last year of the term?! If, as seems quite possible, we elect a D prez and an R senate, McConnell will try to ram through a Trump appointee if Ginsburg retires in the last week of Trump’s term.

  23. Richard says:

    @de stijl: All issues are settled and have been for a hundred years. Why is it Democrats can not live with the rules. The applaud when the rules suit them then cry when they don’t!

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  24. de stijl says:

    @gVOR08:

    It does fit the pattern.

    A D Senate is not entirely out of the question. Things are going very sideways for Rs right now.

    And the trending is down.

    A very stretch goal, but possible if Trump devalues the brand sufficiently.

  25. Richard says:

    @de stijl: Electoral College is the law of the land and will be for some years to come. Grow up Democrats accept the rules and live with them. The system was made to give the citizens of smaller states a say in who is their leader.

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  26. @Richard:

    Why is it Democrats can not live with the rules. The applaud when the rules suit them then cry when they don’t!

    It is rather clear we all are living with the rules.

    But a system that has hit a point wherein now 2 out of the last 5 elections have gone to the president with less popular votes. And because of population trends in arbitrarily drawn states, it could happen again in 2020.

    If you don’t think that is a problem, I would sincerely ask why you think it is a good thing for the president to come to office with minority support in opposition to majority preference?

  27. @Richard:

    The system was made to give the citizens of smaller states a say in who is their leader.

    Actually, that was not the goal, but setting that aside, the current system highly weighs the importance of swing states, not small states. Candidates pay little attention to any state, large or small, if the state isn’t competitive.

    And tell me why all votes shouldn’t count the same? Why should a citizen in small state have more relative weigh than a citizen in a large state? All votes should be equal.

  28. just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Because the Presidents in question have (R) after their names?

  29. john430 says:

    Funny how liberals have suddenly got religion and are praying for Justice Ginsburg.

  30. @john430: A couple of thoughts:

    1) A search suggests that the first mention of pray in this post and thread was by….you.

    2) I find it always rather insulting that conservatives pretend like liberals aren’t/can’t be religious–it is an assumption that conservatives own religion. (And note, I am not taking personal offense, I just find the notion telling and insulting to a lot of genuinely religious liberals).

    3) If you, personally, think that prayer is efficacious, it seems odd to insult someone, anyone, who engages in it. Or, pursuant to #2, are you going to pretend that liberals can’t genuinely engage in acts of faith?

  31. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @john430: Now it’s your turn to get some Religion