- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2019

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was absent from the bench Monday for the first time in 25 years as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on two cases.

The 85-year-old had surgery last month to remove cancerous growths from her left lung and was discharged from the hospital on Christmas but is still recovering, according to a representative for the high court.

Justice Ginsburg is unable to be present today, but will participate in the consideration and decision of the cases on the basis of the briefs and the transcripts of oral arguments,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said from the bench.

Participating in cases after missing oral arguments is not uncommon, and justices can review the audio tape or read the transcript of the proceedings, in addition to reviewing the briefs that accompany every case.

Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist missed dozens of oral arguments but still participated in the court’s rulings after he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2004.

It’s unclear when Justice Ginsburg will return. The cancerous growths were discovered late last year when she was being checked out after falling and breaking three ribs.

The court on Monday began its January session, with arguments to be heard Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and again next week.

Monday’s two cases dealt with debt collection and the Food and Drug Administration’s warning label requirements.

Justice Ginsburg, confirmed to the court in 1993, had never missed an oral argument, though she has participated in rulings remotely.

One of those came last month, just hours after her surgery Dec. 21, when according to NPR she cast a vote against the Trump administration’s push to enforce its policy automatically denying asylum to people who cross the border illegally.

The justice, who has become a liberal cultural icon, had two previous bouts with cancer — one in 1999 with colon cancer and another 10 years later with pancreatic cancer.

Justice Ginsburg has said she won’t step down until she is unable to do her job.

Her 25 years on the court is by no means a record.

Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Johnson Field stepped down after serving more than 34 years on the federal bench. Justice William O. Douglas served more than 36 years.


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