Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed on Friday to the US Senate, fresh off a near party-line acquittal vote to conclude the impeachment trial this week, as an example of the dangers of partisan polarization.
Asked about modern challenges facing the rule of law, Ginsburg cited “a loss of the willingness to listen to people with views other than one’s own. And that is facilitated by electronic means, to associate with only one’s — you could call it one’s own home crowd, and to tune out other voices.”
“I can give an example of our own legislature: The US Senate was once a model of civility and good fellowship, readiness to compromise for the good of the public,” Ginsburg continued. “Today it’s divided sharply, but when I remember back to how it once was, I am hopeful.”
Ginsburg’s remarks come following the Senate’s dramatic resolution to the weeks-long impeachment trial with a vote to acquit President Donald Trump largely along party lines, save for Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah breaking ranks on one of the two articles. The famously progressive justice made the comments after receiving the World Peace & Liberty Award from the World Jurist Association and the World Law Foundation on Friday, one in a bevy of recent and upcoming public appearances.
Ginsburg also pointed to “the problems of indifference, of tribal-like loyalties, lack of observance of the golden rule, ‘Do unto others,’ ” and intolerance in modern society. But she said she took heart in remembering the “true bipartisanship spirit prevailing in our Congress” during her own confirmation hearings after President Bill Clinton nominated her in 1993.
“So I am hopeful that people of goodwill in both of our parties will say, ‘We have had enough of dysfunction. Let’s work together for the good of all of the people who compose the nation,'” she added.
In prepared remarks, Ginsburg, a four-time cancer survivor who turns 87 in March, referenced another sensitive issue: how much longer she has on the court.
It is judges’ “sacred charge to uphold the law and administer justice fairly to all persons, no matter how powerful or small,” she said. “In the years remaining to me on the United States Supreme Court bench, I will strive to do just that — administer justice fairly to all persons, no matter how powerful or small.”
She also referenced the importance of judicial independence, a possible nod to Trump’s prior accusations that judges had political motivations.
“Vital to the rule of law in any land is an independent judiciary, judges who are not under the thumb of other branches of government — the executive and legislative power holders — and therefore equipped to administer justice impartially,” she added.