Search

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospitalized With 3 Broken Ribs

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospitalized With 3 Broken Ribs
Image
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month at the swearing-in ceremony of Brett M. Kavanaugh. She fell and broke three ribs on Wednesday night.CreditCreditTom Brenner for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a critical liberal voice on the Supreme Court, was hospitalized on Thursday morning with three broken ribs after falling in her office the day before.

Justice Ginsburg, 85, went home after her fall on Wednesday evening and experienced discomfort during the night, a Supreme Court spokeswoman, Kathy Arberg, said in a statement. She was admitted to George Washington University Hospital on Thursday morning for observation and treatment. Doctors found three broken ribs on her left side.

The next sitting of the Supreme Court begins Nov. 26, and Justice Ginsburg’s history suggests the injuries are not likely to keep her away. She broke two ribs in 2012, without missing work. And she returned to work quickly after undergoing a heart procedure in 2012. She is also a cancer survivor and returned to work less than three weeks after having surgery.

Justice Ginsburg is the linchpin of the four-member liberal minority on a Supreme Court that has shifted ideologically to the right under President Trump. In less than two years in office, he has appointed two justices, and he has vowed to fill any further openings with more staunch conservatives. A third Trump appointment to the court would give it a dominant 6-to-3 conservative majority.

Justice Ginsburg is the court’s oldest member, a reality not lost on liberals who had already been jittery about how much more time she will be able to serve.

“I think all there is to say at this point is that I — and hopefully all of us — wish Justice Ginsburg all of the best for a full and speedy recovery,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine.

Broken ribs are usually painful, and could puncture the lung, depending on the specifics of the break. Ms. Arberg, the court’s spokeswoman, did not provide additional details about how Justice Ginsburg fell or whether she fell because of another medical condition. Broken ribs typically take about six weeks to heal, but it varies from case to case.

By midday, Mr. Trump had not publicly commented on Justice Ginsburg’s hospitalization. In the morning, the president attended a formal ceremony at the Supreme Court for Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who was sworn in last month. All of the other justices were there except for Justice Ginsburg.

Mr. Trump has been critical of Justice Ginsburg, saying in 2016 that “her mind is shot” and suggesting that she resign. His sharp words came after Justice Ginsburg mocked Mr. Trump in a series of interviews. She later said she had made a mistake in publicly commenting on a candidate and promised to be more “circumspect” in the future.

Justice Ginsburg was appointed to the court by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Originally from New York, she speaks with a hint of a Brooklyn accent and once described herself as “this little tiny little woman.”

The justice, who is known for her lifetime of work fighting for women’s rights, was the subject of a documentary over the summer, and Hollywood is making a movie from her life story. She gained social media popularity in recent years with her own meme and nickname, “Notorious R.B.G.” As the news about Justice Ginsburg spread on social media on Thursday, some Twitter users volunteered to donate their ribs to her, and others called for protective bubble wrap to be sent her way.

During the Obama administration, Professor Chemerinsky and other liberals called for Justice Ginsburg to step down sometime during the summer before the 2014 midterm elections so that Mr. Obama could name her successor. The Democrats went on to cede control of the Senate — and thus the ability to confirm Supreme Court justices — in those elections.

When Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, Mr. Obama nominated a centrist appellate judge, Merrick B. Garland, who had been praised by both parties, to replace him. But the Republican-led Senate refused to consider his nomination so that a new president could make the decision. Mr. Trump chose Neil M. Gorsuch to replace Justice Scalia, preserving the court’s 5-to-4 split between conservatives and liberals.

In an interview in 2013, Justice Ginsburg said that she would not base her retirement plans on who was currently in the Oval Office. She said she would stay put “as long as I can do the job full steam, and that, at my age, is not predictable.”

Earlier this year, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, 81, announced his retirement. He had been a critical swing vote, generally voting with the court’s conservatives but at times embracing liberal views in major cases.

Mr. Trump and Republican allies had hoped Justice Kennedy would step down so that a more conservative justice could be put in place while Senate Republicans were in the majority. Justice Kennedy was replaced by Justice Kavanaugh, one of his former clerks. The Kavanaugh nomination proceedings were the most contentious in decades, and the justice was confirmed in the closest Senate vote since the 19th century.

A hospital spokeswoman on Thursday directed questions about Justice Ginsburg’s condition to the Supreme Court’s press office.

Lawrence K. Altman contributed reporting from New York, and Adam Liptak from Washington.

Related posts