Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an Associate Justice, on the US Supreme Court since 1993, received treatment for pancreatic cancer this summer. The radiation treatments, at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, are said to have gone well, but they are simply the latest battles in a long-running war. Justice Ginsburg has been treated with cancer in various organs over a period of twenty years now.
One of the many memorable opinions of Justice Ginsburg was her separate opinion (concurring in part and dissenting in part) in the big Obamacare case, NFIB v. Sebelius (2012).
The opinion of the Court in that case found for the plaintiffs on the issue of the extent of the commerce clause power. That is: it found that Congress cannot assume the power to re-wire the entire health care insurance market simply because insurance has an impact on interstate commerce. But the Court also found that most of the challenged features of the statute was constitutional regardless, because Congress was working under the authority of its taxing power.
Ginsburg went further. She concurred as to the taxing power, but she also thought that the commerce power is broad enough to have been used as an alternative source of authority. She praised Congress for having produced what she called a “practical, altogether reasonable, solution” to the national problems posed by uninsured medical patients and the costs they impose.
The Thing to Know:
Any disclosure of serious illness in a Justice inevitably produces speculation, sometimes ghoulish, over whether a vacancy is about to open and how, if it does, the President will fill that vacancy.
Often this speculation is accompanied by rather simplistic talk of the “balance” on the Court, in left-right terms, and of how the next appointment will decisively “tilt” that balance with revolutionary results. The balance of the Court is never what the simple account says it is, so people are always disappointed (or relieved) when the supposedly ’tilting’ appointment occurs yet jurisprudence developments proceed on an undramatic evolutionary course.