Ginsburg in court after surgery

February 23, 2009 10:24:30 AM PST
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was back posing tough questions for lawyers at a public session of the Supreme Court, a little over two weeks after undergoing surgery for pancreatic cancer. A beaming Ginsburg entered the marble courtroom with her eight male colleagues just after 10 o'clock Monday morning as Supreme Court Marshal Pamela Talkin began the traditional chant that announces the start of court: "Oyez. Oyez. Oyez ..."

She underwent surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York on Feb. 5 and returned to her home in Washington on Feb. 13. The day after her operation, Ginsburg said through a court spokeswoman that she intended to be in court for Monday's session.

Doctors gave Ginsburg, 75, an encouraging prognosis after they removed a small malignant tumor from her pancreas and determined that the disease had not spread to her lymph nodes or other organs.

There was no indication of her recent illness in her demeanor Monday morning. Ginsburg, an active questioner on the bench, peppered lawyers with questions throughout both cases, even getting in the first question in the second case.

"You're not suggesting that Gomez was unqualified or that she was biased?" she challenged a lawyer who was arguing that his client should get a new trial because a judge refused to exclude a potential juror, Deloris Gomez.

Ginsburg was in her typical court dress consisting of a black robe and white lace collar, with black and white triangular earrings. While other justices reclined back in their chairs, Ginsburg started the day leaning forward during arguments scribbling notes with a pencil and drinking from a silver and black cup with a handle.

She later began rocking slightly in her seat between Justices David Souter and Samuel Alito, and smiling and whispering with the two as they posed their questions to lawyers.

Ginsburg was appointed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and is the only woman on the high court. Her health has been a matter of speculation in Washington, where the Senate would have to confirm any new Supreme Court justice.

Republican Sen. Jim Bunning on Sunday suggested that Ginsburg may not survive very long, even with the successful surgery.

Ginsburg has "bad cancer. The kind that you don't get better from," the two-term Kentucky Republican said, according to the Courier-Journal of Louisville.

"Even though she was operated on, usually, nine months is the longest that anybody would live" with pancreatic cancer, Bunning said.

There was no immediate comment Monday from the court on Bunning's remarks.

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