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A 'Very Much Alive' Ginsburg Says Nine Is Enough

Justice doesn't want term limits or a bigger court
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 25, 2019 5:00 PM CDT
Ruth Bader Ginsburg tries to quell applause at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

(Newser) – Enlarging the Supreme Court was a bad idea when Franklin Roosevelt tried it, Ruth Bader Ginsburg says, and it's a bad idea now. Several Democratic presidential candidates have said they're open to adding justices, to negate the effect of President Trump's two new conservative appointees. Like FDR in the 1930s, Pete Buttigieg wants the court to have 15 justices. That "would make the court look partisan," the justice told NPR on Tuesday, because it would be "one side saying, 'When we're in power, we're going to enlarge the number of judges.'" And public trust is central, Ginsburg said, to an independent judiciary. She doesn't see a need for term limits, either, given the system's protections. "We have life tenure," Ginsburg says. "The only way to get rid of a federal judge is by impeachment," she says, adding that "the safeguards for judicial independence in this country, I think, are as great or greater than anyplace else in the world."

Which leads to Ginsburg's health—she's battled cancer off-and-on for two decades, among other issues. Given that Ginsburg is the court's leading liberal, a role model and hero to many, and there's a conservative president in the White House, her health scares reverberate widely. Concentrating on her work has helped her through those scares, Ginsburg, 86, says: "I had to get past whatever my aches and pains were just to do the job." In February 2009, Fox News points out, Jim Bunning, a former baseball star who was a Republican senator from Kentucky, said in a speech that Ginsburg had cancer and wouldn't be around long. Ginsburg remembers that. "There was a senator, I think it was after my pancreatic cancer, who announced with great glee that I was going to be dead within six months," she told NPR. "That senator, whose name I have forgotten, is now himself dead, and I am very much alive." (Read more Ruth Bader Ginsburg stories.)

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