Supreme Court Retirement Watch

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have? If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court. [The Senate] took off the filibuster for lower federal court appointments, but it remains for this court. So anybody who thinks that if I step down, Obama could appoint someone like me, they’re misguided. As long as I can do the job full steam…. I think I’ll recognize when the time comes that I can’t any longer. But now I can.

– Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, commenting on when we can expect her to retire, in an interview with Elle. The full interview is in Elle’s October issue.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has been making quite a bit of news this SCOTUS off-season, has issued the final battle cry of every divine-right monarch, abusive spouse, and aging quarterback. In an interview with Reuters, the still-sharp Ginsburg said: “So tell me who the president could have nominated this spring that you would rather see on the court than me?”

When reached for comment in the privacy of his own mind, I really hope the President thought: “You must not know ’bout me, You must not know ’bout me. I could have another you in a minute. Matter fact she’ll be here in a minute, baby.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a fantastic justice — is, not “was.” She will likely continue to be a fantastic justice right up until the very moment of her death. We will never see her like again.

But now her watch should end…

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As the Supreme Court’s October Term 2013 fades into memory, and the bickering over Hobby Lobby subsides, let’s look ahead to October Term 2014 — and beyond. We know now the identities of all the OT 2014 SCOTUS clerks, as well as a growing number of the clerks for October Term 2015.

The clerk hiring contains some bad news for Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and other liberals who want Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to retire before it’s too late. The Notorious RBG has picked her posse for OT 2015, suggesting that she won’t be leaving the Court anytime soon.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First let’s look at the official list of Supreme Court law clerks for October Term 2014, starting up in just a few months….

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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should retire from the Supreme Court after the completion of the current term in June. She turned 81 on Saturday and by all accounts she is healthy and physically and mentally able to continue. But only by resigning this summer can she ensure that a Democratic president will be able to choose a successor who shares her views and values.

– Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, calling for Justice Ginsburg to hang up her robe, in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times. Chemerinsky also suggested that Justice Stephen Breyer “carefully consider” the possibility of stepping down.

The media has toppled a barrel of digital ink on the issue of Justice Ginsburg’s insistence on retaining her seat on the Supreme Court. Above the Law has even mentioned it once or twice or thrice. Like any other conventional wisdom story emanating from inside the Beltway, someone raised the issue, Justice Ginsburg said “no,” and then scores of pages were written explaining how she was wrong. And now, as that’s played itself out, scores of pages are going to be written taking the stance that maybe Justice Ginsburg… isn’t wrong?

Well, she is wrong, and bucking the trend of conventional wisdom makes for fun thought experiments, but isn’t as helpful when it comes to discrete, short-term decision-making. The thinking is all too clever by half and should be heaved onto the bonfire of civil liberties Scalia has cooking in his mind….

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As for Supreme Court vacancies? There will be none.

Jeffrey Toobin, legal analyst for the New Yorker and author of The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court (affiliate link), issuing seven legal predictions for 2014.

When I can’t do the job, there will be signs. I know that Justice [John Paul] Stevens [who retired when he was 90] was concerned the last few years about his hearing. I’ve had no loss of hearing yet. But who knows when it could happen?

So all I can say is what I’ve already said: At my age, you take it year by year.

– Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, offering some cryptic comments on when she might step down, in an interview with Robert Barnes, Supreme Court reporter for the Washington Post.

(Do you think Justice Ginsburg, who is now 80 years old, should retire? Take our poll, after the jump.)

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Scalia’s buddy?

* The Supreme Court’s Term opens today, and the conservative justices may have the opportunity to shift the law even further to the right when it comes to today’s social issues. [Los Angeles Times]

* In his Biglaw days, Chief Justice Roberts “gave his adversaries heartburn.” Now, his litigation skills serve the same purpose for those giving oral arguments before SCOTUS. [National Law Journal]

* It seems that in the end, Justice Ginsburg’s career choices have been whittled down to the lyrics found in one of The Clash’s catchiest songs: Should she stay or should she go now? [Washington Post]

* In other news, in case you were wondering, Justice Antonin Scalia, a firm believer in the Devil, is just as scary in real life as he is when he haunts your dreams (which is impressive!). [New York Magazine]

* “If this continues, it’s going to be very problematic.” Clients are very annoyed, and some Biglaw firms continue to worry about how the government shutdown will affect their bottom line. [New York Law Journal]

* The defections at night, are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas: Weil Gotshal’s Houston office is still leaking partners like a sieve. We’ll have more on these developments later today. [Law360 (sub. req.)]

* President Obama continues to comment on the important issues of the day. He’d “think about changing” the Redskins team name if he were its owner — just like this fired Quinn Emanuel associate. [CNN]

* Viva la raza! The federal government is too slow for California, so the governor signed a bill into law that will allow illegal immigrants to become licensed as lawyers. Congratulations to Sergio Garcia. [Reuters]

* No, we won’t remove that embarrassing story we wrote about you — but at least we’re not trying to charge you hundreds of dollars for its removal like those pesky mug shot websites. [New York Times]

A jabot is great for catching drool.

Who is drooling on the bench?

– Justice Antonin Scalia, rejecting the idea of term limits for Supreme Court justices, in remarks delivered yesterday in Montana.

(Additional highlights from Justice Scalia’s speech, after the jump.)

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As long as I can do the job full-steam, I would like to stay here. Last term was a good example. I didn’t write any slower. I didn’t think any slower. I have to take it year by year at my age, and who knows what could happen next year? Right now, I know I’m OK. Whether that will be true at the end of next term, I can’t say.

– Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the lone octogenarian on the Supreme Court, commenting on whether she might retire from the nation’s highest bench any time in the near future.

(Do you think Justice Ginsburg should retire? Take our poll, after the jump.)

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