US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is no spring chicken. At 85, she’s the oldest justice on the bench and has faced criticism for many years because she has refused to step down. Now that she has been hospitalized for the second time in two months, it seems likely that her critics will become more vociferous.
The justice today (Dec. 21) underwent a pulmonary loboctemy at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York to remove two malignant nodules found in the lower lobe of her left lung, according to a statement from the Supreme Court. The nodules were discovered during a visit to George Washington University hospital to follow up on her recovery after she fractured ribs on Nov. 7, due to a fall while working late in her chambers.
No further evidence of disease was found in a post-surgery scan, and no additional treatment is planned for now. Ginsburg is reportedly resting comfortably and will remain in the hospital for a few days. If her last hospitalization is any indication, the only justice with a hip-hop moniker will be back in action in no time; in fact, the Notorious RBG may well be working while in the hospital all weekend.
Yet Ginsburg’s grit and work ethic isn’t enough to quell the criticisms of detractors. On Nov 24, Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones noted that Ginsburg is a feminist hero who has engendered a cult of adoring fans and a veritable mountain of swag—everything from yoga mats and water bottles to t-shirts and action figures—as well as documentaries, books, and a fitness video. Mencimer wrote, “But no amount of swag or hagiography can obscure the fact that, while Ginsburg is responsible for a great number of landmark legal decisions, her legacy may be sorely tarnished by one truly terrible one: refusing to retire when President Barack Obama could have named her replacement.”
Mencimer and other critics contend that Ginsburg should have stepped down when Obama still might have replaced her with another liberal-leaning judge. With Donald Trump as president, and his two new appointments on the bench Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the nation’s highest court has taken a conservative turn.
What detractors ignore, however, is that Obama was unable to get his last Supreme Court nomination, Merrick Garland, to a confirmation hearing, much less on the bench. And they may be underestimating Ginsburg’s grit, resilience, and unparalleled commitment. As Bryant Johnson, Ginsburg’s longtime personal trainer, told The Cut in November, “To all the stressed-out people in America, remember that the justice is TAN. Now, I always use that acronym: TAN. She’s tough as nails.”