Washington: Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will not be on the bench Monday when the new term begins, the first time she’s ever missed a session in 26 years as a member of the high court.
Ginsburg, 85, is recovering from a pulmonary lobectomy to remove two malignant nodules in her left lung. Since the surgery on Dec. 21, Ginsburg has worked from home to stay up-to-date on court business. She plans to read the briefs and transcripts for two oral arguments scheduled for Monday.
Ginsburg will still vote on the cases, the court’s public information officer said.
There was no evidence of any remaining disease following the surgery, the court said. The nodules were found after Ginsburg fell after breaking three ribs in November.
Despite a third bout with cancer, Ginsburg said she has no intentions of stepping down from her lifetime appointment to the court.
“As long as I can do the job full steam, I will do it,” she said last year.
Ginsburg had colorectal cancer in 1999 and pancreatic cancer 10 years later. She had scheduled the treatments for both so she wouldn’t miss oral arguments.
Despite not physically being at the court, she will be participating in the cases by reading the briefs and the transcripts of the oral arguments.
Ginsburg had hoped to be back on the court for arguments, but Dr. Douglas Mathisen, chairman of thoracic surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, warned that getting back to work too quickly after this kind of surgery could mean “one step forward and five steps back.”
Ginsburg is expected to make a full recovery and be back on the court.
“These days we are seeing more and more patients in their 70s and 80s make relatively quick recoveries,” Mathisen said last month before Ginsburg’s surgery, “because we are detecting so many more lung cancers at early stages” when treatment is far more effective and successful.
This is Ginsburg’s third bout with cancer. In 1999, she was treated for colorectal cancer, a decade later, she was treated for pancreatic cancer.
Ginsburg is one of four ideologically liberal justices on the court. President Trump has shifted the court in a more conservative direction, appointing two Supreme Court justices — Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh replaced the court’s swing justice, Anthony Kennedy, for whom he clerked.