Last week, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced that she has been undergoing treatment for liver cancer since February — news that came shortly after she spent time at John Hopkins Hospital due to an infection.
Most were caught off-guard by the revelation, and in an article published on Sunday, Politico’s Josh Gerstein said the court’s lack of transparency regarding the health of all nine justices raises some serious questions.
“The five-month delay that preceded Ginsburg’s statement Friday was just the latest episode to prompt concern among courtwatchers that the justices are being too opaque about their health,” he wrote.
Gerstein questions SCOTUS secrecy
Gerstein also took time to point out that Justice Ginsburg isn’t the only one on the bench who has been keeping health concerns out of the public eye.
“Earlier this month, it emerged that Chief Justice John Roberts had fallen, bled profusely and required stitches on his head while on a morning walk near his home in Maryland in late June,” he noted.
Despite the fact that Roberts actually required hospitalization as a result of the accident, Gerstein noted that the incident only came to public light due to a tip that was sent into The Washington Post.
The Politico legal affairs contributor also referenced the 2016 passing of Reagan appointee and conservative icon Justice Antonin Scalia while on a hunting trip in Texas.
Only after his death did it become known that the justice was suffering from “diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obstructive sleep apnea and coronary artery disease,” Gerstein lamented.
Public deserves more
After reminding readers of these facts, Gerstein observed that “[c]ritics say the public is entitled to more information about the justices‘ medical condition.”
“With the court sharply divided on many pivotal issues, an unexpected health crisis on the part of one justice has the potential to upend official Washington. But the fact the justices enjoy life tenure and have little in the way of oversight to monitor their competence also makes questions about their health more urgent than for other public officials,” he added.
Gerstein concluding by quoting the National Law Journal’s Tony Mauro, who said, “I don’t think we’re entitled to know every little problem a justice has, but if it’s a significant problem that could affect their ability to work, I think it’s relevant.”
Given the political firestorm that would assuredly erupt should a vacancy arise prior to November, it is difficult to disagree with the argument that the citizenry deserves to be kept abreast of developments that might hasten that type of divisive national battle.