The oldest justice on the Supreme Court made her first public appearance following cancer treatment, accepting an honorary law degree from the University at Buffalo School of Law.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 86, smiled, waved, and drew rounds of standing applause from the audience as she remarked with wonderment about her life. The liberal-leaning justice, who has refused to retire until at least 2020, underwent cancer treatment for the third time in the last decade in August, the court announced late last week.
The three-week radiation therapy appeared to fully remove the cancerous tumor and apart from causing Ginsburg to miss her annual trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, did not strongly disrupt her schedule, the court indicated.
At the law school, Ginsburg said that attorney Wayne Wisbaum, who passed away in December 2018, invited her to Buffalo before he died and that she wanted to honor her commitment despite her recent health issues.
“In July 2018, Wayne wrote to me that his health disabled him from playing a lead role in the arrangements for my visit here, but he still hoped to attend all the events. He asked me to confirm that I would come to Buffalo in August 2019 in any event,” Ginsburg said. “I did so immediately and I did not withdraw when my own health problems presented challenges.”
Ginsburg expressed amazement at her rise into the limelight as a liberal icon, lionized in popular culture with two movies—a documentary and a feature film.
“It was beyond my wildest imagination that I would one day become the ‘Notorious RBG,'” she added, prompting laughter and applause from the people in the audience. “I am now 86 years old, yet people of all ages want to take their picture with me—amazing.”
“If I am notorious, it is because I had the good fortune to be alive and a lawyer in the late 1960s, then and continuing through the 1970s. For the first time in history it became possible to urge before courts successfully that equal justice under law requires all arms of government to regard women as persons equal in stature to men,” she continued.
“In my college years … it was widely thought that women were not suited to many of life’s occupations,” including driving trucks, serving in the military, and being on juries.
Ginsburg has shown no desire to leave the court despite being six years old than the next oldest justice, Stephen Breyer. If she leaves before the 2020 elections, President Donald Trump will get his third nomination after Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.
President Donald Trump said late Friday to reporters after being asked about Ginsburg: “I’m hoping she’s going to be fine. She’s been through a lot. She’s strong. She’s very tough. But we wish her well. Very well.”
Ginsburg broke from the supposed nonpartisan ranks of the Supreme Court prior to Trump’s election, claiming that Trump was “a faker” who “really has an ego.” She said she hoped he wasn’t elected.
She later apologized.