US supreme court justice Ginsburg takes part in oral arguments from hospital

87-year-old liberal-leaning justice admitted to Johns Hopkins with gall bladder condition

US supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Her health has been of particuular concern to liberals in recent years.  Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP

US supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Her health has been of particuular concern to liberals in recent years. Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP

 

Supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg participated in oral arguments from hospital on Wednesday, a day after she was admitted for a gall bladder condition.

The 87-year-old justice was admitted to Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore on Tuesday for non-surgical treatment for acute cholecystitis, the supreme court said.

It is the latest health scare for Ms Bader Ginsburg, who was previously treated for pancreatic and lung cancer.

Ms Bader Ginsburg was appointed to America’s highest court in 1993 by then president Bill Clinton. She was well known in legal circles for her landmark work on gender equality and women’s rights in the workplace.

She is one of four liberal-leaning justices who were appointed by Democratic presidents to sit on the nine-member court.

Supreme court appointees are life appointments, though Ms Bader Ginsburg’s former colleague Anthony Kennedy retired in 2018 at the age of 81, paving the way for the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Mr Kavanaugh, whose nomination was steeped in controversy following sexual assault allegations, was the second judge to be nominated by President Donald Trump during this tenure.

Shortly after his election as president Mr Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016. Republicans at the time of Mr Scalia’s death refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, as Mr Scalia’s replacement, a move that was widely denounced by Democrats.

Over-70s

Though Ms Bader Ginsburg is the oldest member of the court, three of the justices are aged over 70 – Justice Stephen Breyer is 81, while Clarence Thomas is 71. Individuals aged over 70 have been deemed to be particularly susceptible to Covid-19, a virus that has already claimed the lives of 70,000 Americans.

For the first time in its history, the supreme court began hearing oral arguments in cases by conference call on Monday, due to coronavirus. Members of the public and journalists have been permitted to listen in as the justices parse the arguments in several cases on the court’s agenda this term.

On Tuesday, the court heard opening briefs in a significant case on access to contraception under the Affordable Care Act – the healthcare legislation also known as Obamacare introduced by Mr Obama a decade ago.

The Trump administration argues that employers, on religious grounds, should be allowed to prevent women accessing contraception under the healthcare plans provided by employers. The supreme court decided last Friday to take up the case, after various challenges in the lower courts.

In one intervention on Wednesday, Ms Bader Ginsburg said that lawyers for the department of justice had “tossed entirely to the wind what Congress considered to be essential – that women be provided this service, with no hassle and no cost to them”.

A judgment is expected this summer. It is one of several contentious cases being heard by the highest court in the United States. A case related to Mr Trump’s tax documents is also scheduled for this month.