America

Justice Ginsburg Says She Worries About Court's Politicization

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks to students at New England Law in Boston in March of 2009.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks to students at New England Law in Boston in March of 2009. Elise Amendola/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Elise Amendola/AP

In an interview with USA Today, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the senior member of the Supreme Court's liberal wing, said she worries about the judiciary getting "caught up in politics."

The USA Today reports:

She declined to say whether she thought any of her colleagues might be politically motivated. She did, however, lament Senate stalling of judicial nominations and escalating tit-for-tat by Democrats and Republicans through the years.

"It will take a real statesman to blow the whistle" to stop the pattern, she said. Ginsburg, who was nominated by President Clinton in 1993, was approved on a 96-3 vote. She said she doubted she would enjoy the same bipartisan support today.

Ginsburg said there was one case in the past term in which the court "was not just wrong, but egregiously so." In that case, the court overturned a $14 million award that a jury gave a New Orleans man, who was falsely imprisoned for 18 years because a prosecutor illegally withheld evidence. (For more background, NPR's Nina Totenberg filed a piece about the case in April.)

Here's what Ginsburg, who delivered her dissent from the bench, told the USA Today,

"It was an instance of extreme injustice. I thought that the court was not just wrong but egregiously so," she said. She said she decided not simply to let the written statement speak for itself, as is the usual practice, to bring attention to a criminal justice system that "had misfired."

"I was doing it to influence my colleagues and (lower court) judges who could stop this kind of thing," she said of prosecutors' concealing exculpatory evidence.

In the end, however, she said she was hopeful. She pointed to a 5-4 decision in which the court ordered California to release prisoners in order to ease overcrowding. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, penned the majority decision, which was joined by Ginsburg and her liberal colleagues.

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