Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Voice of Reason
Affectionately referred to as “Notorious RBG” by fans, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not only alive despite internet conspiracy theories to the contrary, but still very much in touch with the issues of the day surrounding the court she has spent the last 26 years on. Asked about several Democratic candidates for president proposing to raise the number of Supreme Court justices, the Associate Justice was not impressed: “Nine seems to be a good number. It’s been that way for a long time,” she said, adding, “I think it was a bad idea when President Franklin Roosevelt tried to pack the court.”
“If anything would make the court look partisan,” she said, “it would be that — one side saying, ‘When we’re in power, we’re going to enlarge the number of judges, so we would have more people who would vote the way we want them to.’ ”
That impairs the idea of an independent judiciary, she said.
“We are blessed in the way no other judiciary in the world is,” she noted. “We have life tenure. The only way to get rid of a federal judge is by impeachment. Congress can’t retaliate by reducing our salary, so the safeguards for judicial independence in this country, I think, are as great or greater than anyplace else in the world.”
But the whole notion of the country’s independent judiciary hinges on public trust, she noted.
“The court has no troops at its command,” Ginsburg pointed out, “doesn’t have the power of the purse, and yet time and again, when the courts say something, people accept it.”
She recalled Bush v. Gore, the controversial case in which the Supreme Court stopped a Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election.
“I dissented from that decision,” Ginsburg said. “I thought it was unwise. A lot of people disagreed with it. And yet the day after the court rendered its decision, there were no riots in the streets. People adjusted to it. And life went on.”