U.S. Supreme Court

Stop treating Ruth Bader Ginsburg like a judicial rock star, op-ed says

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Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been described as a judicial rock star. Her face appears on T-shirts bearing the “Notorious RBG” nickname. Her exercise routine is the subject of a book. Her appearances draw large crowds.

Enough already, says University of California at Irvine law professor Richard Hasen in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times. He sees danger in treating justices as celebrities as they take on political roles in a polarized era—even a justice like Ginsburg who was a leading lawyer for women’s rights before joining the court.

“Maybe, just maybe, the left should tone it down with the worship of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” he writes.

The late Justice Antonin Scalia paved the way for such excess, Hasen says. He made frequent appearances where he advocated an originalist view of the Constitution and made provocative comments.

“Now Ginsburg has taken up the mantle of the court’s most provocative public justice,” Hasen says. She has said that kneeling during the national anthem is “dumb and disrespectful,” has said sexism was “a major, major factor” in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential loss, and has called Donald Trump a “faker” with “no consistency about him.”

She later apologized for the comments about Trump and the national anthem protests.

“It’s dangerous for Supreme Court justices to assume such political roles, particularly when faith in our institutions is declining,” Hasen writes. “If justices are going to be public figures, they should do so in ways that reinforce the rule of law, not partisan politics.”

Hasen says he would like to see a liberal justice appear at the annual meeting of the conservative Federalist Society, and he would like to see a conservative justice appear at a meeting of the liberal American Constitution Society.

He would also like to see additional justices join retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in working on civic education. And Hasen believes more justices should speak to minority and poor high school students, following the example of Justices Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor.

“Justice Ginsburg is a hero,” Hasen writes. “She deserves our thanks for her exemplary service. But the left needn’t turn her into a god and conservative justices into devils.”

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