Justice Ginsburg: Recent term ‘much more divisive than usual’

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Wednesday evening described the 2017-18 term as “much more divisive than usual.”

The term as a whole was “momentous” and filled with “far more than the usual number of high-profile disputes,” the 85-year-old Ginsburg, whose career on the Supreme Court spans more than two decades, said at a Washington event hosted by Duke University.

Ginsburg expressed a “hope” that the high court return to its “usual” rates of divisiveness next term.

Ginsburg said that while she and her fellow justices share a “collegiality,” that kinship has faded from Congress.

“You don’t see that kind of friendship existing in Congress anymore,” she said. “You might recall that when I was nominated by President Clinton, the (confirmation) vote was 96-3. It’s not that way anymore.”

Ginsburg spoke warmly of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who, despite being someone she often dissented with, was her “favorite sparring partner.”

“There’s no one in the court that was a match for Justice Scalia’s sense of humor,” said Ginsburg. “His spicy opinions are no more.”

Statistics maintained by SCOTUSblog backed up Ginsburg’s comment about the divisiveness of the most recent term.

The term that ended in June “saw an uncommonly low level of unanimity” and had a higher level of decisions split 5-4 than in recent years, according to the blog, which is regarded as one of the best sources of Supreme Court analysis on the Internet.

Analysis from SCOTUSblog also found that for 61% of the decisions this term, the justices were “divided,” or “disagreed on whether to affirm, reverse or vacate the decision below.”

On Sunday, Ginsburg had said she hopes to stay on the Supreme Court for “at least five more years.”

When asked Wednesday about her legacy, Ginsburg said she wants to be remembered “as someone who did the best she could, made things better for the less well-off and moved society along a democratic path.”