Ruth Bader Ginsburg expected to be released from hospital today

Ginsburg was hospitalized on Friday for "chills and fever"

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published November 24, 2019 10:00AM (EST)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Getty/Jim Watson)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Getty/Jim Watson)

Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is expected to be released from the hospital as early as Sunday morning after being admitted on Friday for "chills and fever."

In a press release on Saturday, the Supreme Court revealed that the 86-year-old justice had been admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital on Friday after she reported feeling "chills and fever" earlier on that same day. Initially Ginsburg had gone to Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., but she was later transferred to the famous hospital in Baltimore, Maryland so she could be more extensively evaluated and receive any necessary treatment for potential infections. After being medicated with intravenous antibiotics and fluids, Ginsburg's symptoms abated and it was anticipated that she would be released from the hospital as early as Sunday morning.

This is not the first health scare that Ginsburg has had in 2019. In August the Supreme Court disclosed that she had undergone a three-week course of stereotactic ablative radiation therapy at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. The purpose of the radiation treatment was to treat a tumor on her pancreas (she had previously been treated for pancreatic cancer in 2009) after a routine blood test detected an abnormality that was later ascertained to have been caused by a localized malignant tumor. During her hospitalization she had a bile duct stent placed.

Ginsburg has also had other health scares. She was treated for colon cancer in 1999 and for lung cancer in December.

As one of the four justices on the Supreme Court's liberal wing — the others include associate justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer — the possibility of Ginsburg retiring or passing away has many liberals concerned about the future of America's most powerful bench. If Ginsburg leaves the court before the 2020 presidential election, President Donald Trump will get to choose her successor, and would be expected to select a conservative judge who would push the bench even further to the right than it has been since the retirement of "swing vote" Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy last year.

There is considerable controversy over how Senate Republicans have handled Supreme Court vacancies. After Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, President Barack Obama attempted to replace him with an appeals court judge named Merrick Garland. Senate Republicans refused to hold a hearing on Garland's candidacy, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans arguing that Americans should wait until after the 2016 presidential election in order to give the American people an opportunity to decide who they wanted to see on the bench. After Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in that election, Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch to replace Scalia and the conservative judge was confirmed.

McConnell has already indicated that he would not follow the precedent that he established during the 2016 election cycle if events repeat themselves in the 2020 cycle. During a  Paducah Chamber of Commerce luncheon in his home state of Kentucky,  McConnell was asked, "Should a Supreme Court justice die next year, what will your position be on filling that spot?" After taking a long sip from his beverage before smiling, McConnell replied, "Oh, we'd fill it." The audience laughed loudly in response to McConnell's comments.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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