SUPREME COURT NOTEBOOK: Did Ginsburg hint at census outcome?

Politics
Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks about her work and gender equality at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, Tuesday, July 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s been another taxing term for reporters who try to forecast the outcome of high-profile Supreme Court cases.

Many of us wrote that based on arguments in late April, the court’s five conservative justices would allow the Trump administration to go forward with a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

That turned out not to be true when Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the court’s four liberals, in a decision announced last week, to keep citizenship off the census questionnaire , at least for the time being. The administration said Tuesday it would drop its effort to put its question on the form.

But perhaps we did not focus enough on a hint dropped by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in early June. In a speech to lawyers and judges in New York, Ginsburg described those predicting the administration would win the case as “speculators.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary says a speculator may take something “to be true on the basis of insufficient evidence.”

“Speculators about the outcome note that last year, in Trump v. Hawaii, the court upheld the so-called ‘travel ban,’ in an opinion granting great deference to the Executive,” Ginsburg said in prepared remarks distributed by the court.

It’s fair to, ahem, speculate that the 86-year-old justice could have idly dropped the word into her speech without intending to signal the case’s outcome.

But this year’s speech was not the first to offer some evidence that Ginsburg knows precisely what she is doing.

In 2012, with the whole world waiting for the court’s verdict on President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, Ginsburg told the same groups of lawyers and judges that that the term had been especially “taxing.” Weeks later, with Roberts and the four liberals forming a majority, the Supreme Court upheld the heart of the Affordable Care Act as a valid exercise of Congress’ taxing power.

Problem is, Ginsburg’s handiwork is typically only evident in hindsight. And to be fair, she denied to a reporter that she intended to foreshadow the health care decision in her speech.

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Send more women to Washington. That was what Ginsburg had to say Tuesday during an event at Georgetown law school in the nation’s capital, where she was asked about the number of women in politics. Yes, no woman has served as president, but voters sent a record number of women to Congress in the last election.

“Impressive numbers, but not enough. That’s right,” said Ginsburg, who co-founded the American Civil Liberties Union Women’s Rights Project before she was a justice.

Ginsburg became the second woman to join the Supreme Court when she was nominated by Bill Clinton in 1993, and a record three women now sit on the nine-member court.

Ginsburg wasn’t asked how many female justices would be “enough,” but she’s answered that question repeatedly in the past: “When there are nine.”

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Three glorious months. That’s how long the Supreme Court is on vacation after issuing its final, big opinions last week.

The justices usually get out of Washington, packing their bags for other parts of the country and the world. Roberts likes to spend time at a vacation home in Maine. Justice Clarence Thomas generally isn’t recognized as he drives his motor coach around the country.

This year, Ginsburg’s schedule includes a repeat trip to New York to speak at a festival dedicated to musicals and opera , a passion of hers. She’ll be back in Washington to speak at the Library of Congress National Book Festival on Aug. 31.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor is also hitting the books, spending time at book festivals in Mississippi and Georgia. She has a new kids book, “Just Ask!” due out Sept. 3. It’s about children who are growing up with different challenges, a topic personal to Sotomayor, who was diagnosed with diabetes as a child.

The classroom, rather than the courtroom, is another place justices often spend the summer. The court’s newest justice, Brett Kavanaugh, is teaching in England. President Donald Trump’s other appointee to the court, Neil Gorsuch, is doing the same in Italy. Gorsuch will be back stateside to speak at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in mid-September, where he’ll talk about his book, “A Republic, If You Can Keep It,” due out Sept. 10.

The justices will next gather for a private conference Oct. 1 and begin hearing arguments again Oct. 7.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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