Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she has no plans to retire soon

In a rare interview with Elle Magazine, 21-year Supreme Court veteran Ruth Bader Ginsberg explained why she doesn't plan on going anywhere. 

Charles Dharapak/AP
Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg poses for a photo in her chambers at the Supreme Court in Washington, July 24, before an interview with the Associated Press.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has a message she'd like to make loud and clear to anyone wondering if she plans on stepping down any time soon: In a word, the answer is no.

Her reason, she explained in an an interview with Elle, comes down to the Senate. While Democrats currently control the chamber, they do not have the 60 votes needed to defeat a likely Republican filibuster to get a left-leaning justice onto the court.

"Anybody who thinks that if I step down, Obama could appoint someone like me, they’re misguided," Justice Ginsburg said. 

Her comments come as a pointed reply to left-wing critics who believe she should step down now so President Obama can appoint another liberal-leaning judge in her place. If not, critics contend, the 81-year-old justice could die with a Republican president in office, paving the way for the pendulum of the Court to tilt further to the right. And while Obama may have two years left in office, critics worry that if the Democrats lose the Senate come November, getting a left-leaning judge onto the court becomes a monumental, if not impossible, task to achieve. 

"[Ginsburg] is dead wrong about something big," wrote the New Republic's Marc Tracy in December of last year. "And the big thing she is wrong about is insisting that she should not consider retiring soon, while she knows that a Democratic president and a Democratic-leaning Senate will be in-charge of replacing her." 

But Ginsburg is holding to her already stated intention to maintain her position – justices have lifetime appointments. 

"As long as I can do the job full steam…. I think I’ll recognize when the time comes that I can’t any longer. But now I can," she said. 

"Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have?" she said in the interview. "If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the Court."

A key topic in the interview excerpt was the court's shift to the political right in recent years, particularly on women's issues, and what Ginsberg sees as the primary catalyst in that shift: Justice Anthony Kennedy.

"To be frank, it’s one person who made the difference: Justice [Anthony] Kennedy," she said in the interview. "He was a member of the triumvirate used to [reaffirm] Roe v. Wade in the Casey case, but since then, his decisions have been on upholding restrictions on access to abortion." 

She also commented on her now-famous dissent she wrote after the court's 5-4 ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, which said the government cannot require closely held companies to provide employees with insurance that would cover birth control and emergency contraception, if they conflict with the employers' religious beliefs. 

In the dissent, Ginsburg notably wrote, "The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would override significant interests of the corporations' employees and covered dependents. It would deny legions of women who do not hold their employers' beliefs access to contraceptive coverage." 

But speaking with Elle, Ginsburg said she did not think the Hobby Lobby ruling would be remembered as a significant decision from her time on the Court. 

"I think 50 years from now, people will not be able to understand Hobby Lobby," she said in the interview.

She added that, in her opinion, a reason for a lack of "pro-choice activity" in the country today is because the brunt of decisions restricting access to contraceptives and abortions, is felt primarily by poor women. 

"The impact of all these restrictions is on poor women, because women who have means, if their state doesn’t provide access, another state does." 

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