Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reportedly underwent heart surgery this morning, after feeling discomfort during exercise. NBC News’ Pete Williams reported:
Ginsburg, 81, had a stent placed in her right coronary artery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. She was resting comfortably and was expected to be discharged within 48 hours, the court said.The blockage was discovered after she felt discomfort on Tuesday night, the court said. For the past few years, Ginsburg has been working out with a personal trainer at the Supreme Court gym, and a court official said she was there when she felt the discomfort.
For Ginsburg, the Supreme Court’s oldest justice, this is not her first health scare – she’s also persevered through two bouts with cancer.
I’m no medical expert, but as I understand it, stent placements are a fairly routine procedure, and there’s no reason to believe this will keep Ginsburg from her duties for very long. Indeed, she’ll probably be home by the weekend.
That said, whenever an 81-year-old with a history of health issues has heart surgery, it inevitably leads to renewed conversation about the benefits of retirement.
Court watchers are well aware, of course, that Ginsburg has heard the talk about her possibly stepping down before the end of President Obama’s tenure, but she continues to strenuously reject the suggestions.
For those unfamiliar with the discussion, let’s revisit our coverage from September.
The pro-retirement pitch is pretty straightforward. Though Ginsburg continues to serve with distinction, she’s 81. If she retires before 2016, President Obama will nominate a progressive successor; if Ginsburg leaves the bench between 2017 and 2020, and there’s a Republican president, her replacement would almost certainly be a far-right jurist who would reject Ginsburg’s views, values, and entire approach to the law.
In other words, by deferring retirement, the liberal Supreme Court justice is taking an enormous and unnecessary risk – with the court’s future, with the nation’s future, with our future, and with her own legacy. Ginsburg seems willing to gamble, even if it risks moving the already conservative Supreme Court even further to the right.
Despite my deep respect and admiration for Ginsburg and her inspiring career, I find her approach extraordinarily reckless. For all of our sakes, here’s hoping her gamble pays off.