In her fifth week of public testimony, Virginia Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg continued to make no bones about the reality that she holds among the most conservative views in the nation’s highest court. Her criticism of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the newest member of the court, was primarily the product of her frustration over the establishment of a new generation of liberal justices. But Ginsburg’s comments illustrate her deeply and clearly embedded disagreement with the decisions of Justice Antonin Scalia and Court’s founders—and they’re taken entirely out of context. She, in other words, continues to justify the formation of the court in which she is serving.At issue was Ginsburg’s characterization of Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg’s historical views on preserving the importance of the First Amendment, which remain largely intact today despite many crucial decisions during the conservative march. Ginsburg had been appointed to the court by President Bill Clinton. But earlier this year, during the launch of Trump’s campaign, she called judicial decisions by Scalia and Scalia’s successor Clarence Thomas “not the worst or the greatest.”
Ginsburg’s reaction was sustained by judicial tradition and open for debate. If the American people perceived justices all being pretty much one party, Ginsburg would be losing her position in the court. But that hasn’t been true on the court. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito, who were picked by the previous president, were re-elected in 2016.
With the prospect of some drastic changes in the court, a contested fight is occurring over ideological consistency on the bench. Ginsburg is standing her ground. Scalia’s opinions remain the main source of disagreement, and he remains a well-known figure, by far, in the conservative opposition. Ginsburg uses Scalia’s disagreements with liberals, and has largely retained them, as a source of continued disagreement.
It’s a remarkable experience to watch the court’s first truly liberal justice struggle to obtain the equivalent of the Jefferson-Jackson Agreement on the bench—one that allows the majority to interpret the law and the dissenting minority to speak for themselves. But it’s also a profoundly unproductive exercise. To imagine that the court is strictly nonpartisan is simply a false distinction, one that does little to persuade people of the needs of this branch of government.