Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg defended President Donald Trump’s two appointees to the Supreme Court and rebuffed progressive proposals to expand the tribunal this week.
The justice has proved a steady defender of the high court, as its newly entrenched conservative majority is becoming a regular target of left-wing criticism.
“I can say that my two newest colleagues are very decent and very smart individuals,” Ginsburg said Wednesday night during an event hosted by Duke University School of Law, in reference to Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
“The court remains the most collegial place I have ever worked,” the justice said elsewhere in her remarks.
Ginsburg assigned two opinions to Gorsuch this term and one to Kavanaugh. Opinions are assigned on the basis of seniority — when the chief justice is in the majority, he decides who writes the opinion of the court. When the chief is in dissent, the senior justice in the majority decides.
Both opinions Gorsuch wrote at Ginsburg’s behest concerned criminal law issues, while Kavanaugh’s was an anti-trust dispute. In all three cases, either Gorsuch or Kavanaugh joined with the liberal justices to form a 5-4 majority.
As such, Ginsburg’s assignments could be strategic, at least in part. Giving the majority opinion to the justice most likely to flip to the dissent makes defections much less likely. But it also reflects Ginsburg’s confidence in Trump’s two appointees.
All told, her rhetoric keeps with the sense of normalcy and regular order the court has tried to project following Kavanaugh’s contentious confirmation. During his first day on the bench, the justices were especially polite and jocular. Justice Elena Kagan made a point of shaking hands with Kavanaugh at the conclusion of arguments.
The attitude is not merely rhetorical. The left-leaning justices have also defended the court’s institutional integrity. Shortly before her appearance the Duke event, Ginsburg panned new Democratic proposals to expand the Supreme Court. Justice Stephen Breyer, who like Ginsburg was appointed by former President Bill Clinton, similarly criticized court-packing measures in April.
The Supreme Court is currently on a summer recess and will not hear cases again until October.
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