U.S. Supreme Court

Eight isn't enough, Justice Ginsburg says

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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Photo by Sam Kittner)

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg remarked on the drawbacks of the unfilled vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court at a judicial conference on Thursday.

“Eight, as you know, is not a good number for a multi-member court,” Ginsburg said in her prepared remarks (PDF) at the conference for the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “When we meet at the circuit conference next year, I anticipate reporting on the decisions of a full bench.”

CNN says Ginsburg’s remark is “the furthest a sitting justice has gone, since the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia earlier this year, to signal that the court would function better with a fully staffed bench.” Other publications covering Ginsburg’s remarks included the Huffington Post, the Associated Press and the Washington Post.

President Obama has nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy, but Republicans have blocked consideration of the nomination.

Ginsburg referred to 4-4 splits in two cases this term. One of the cases, a challenge to mandatory union dues for public employees, “was among the terms most closely watched cases,” she said.

When the court is evenly divided “that means no opinions and no precedential value,” Ginsburg said.

She also noted that another “headline case” involving the Affordable Care Act was resolved without an opinion on the merits. The case, a challenge by religiously affiliated groups to the opt-out procedure for providing contraceptive coverage for their employees, was remanded for consideration of a potential compromise.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Chief justice says he backs consensus, even if it means putting off issues for a later day”

ABAJournal.com: “Supreme Court may or may not split 4-4 in a handful of cases, Breyer says”

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