U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the guest of honor in Reston Tuesday, where she was the keynote speaker for the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s Titans Breakfast at the Hyatt Regency in Reston Town Center.
Ginsburg, 80, was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and Tuesday told former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson and those assembled in the audience that she currently has no plans to step down.
Olson, a partner at law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, has argued 60 cases before the Supreme Court and was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Olson moderated a “fireside chat” style discussion with Ginsburg onstage Tuesday.
When he asked Ginsburg whether Supreme Court Justices ready to retire should step down while a President from their own party is in office, Ginsbrg replied: “I think one should stay as long as she can do the job…Can you do the job? Can you think as well? Can you write with the same fluency? At my age you take it year by year. I’m OK this year,” she said to thunderous applause from the audience.
Ginsburg, currently the oldest Supreme Court Justice, then cited two former Democratic justices--Thurgood Marshall and William Brennan--who both retired under Republican presidents.
She then spoke out somewhat against the politicization of the nomination process for Supreme Court Justices.
“I recall your nomination and I believe it was a vote of 97 to 3 in the Senate,” said Olson. “Since then, not many have had that level of margin.”
Ginsburg, who prior to becoming a Supreme Court Justice served as both General Counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union and as a member of its board of directors, said that she recalled that during her nomination, Republicans did not attempt to stop the confirmation process.
“My affiliation with the ACLU was never questioned,” she said. “The real symbol of the United States is not the bald eagle, it is the pendulum. Right now it has swung one way very far in terms of judicial nominations, and it should soon swing back the other way.”
Ginsburg said that she feels tremendous responsibility as a justice in “the most respected high court in the world” and that the U.S. Supreme Court is revered by other nations, even sometimes with disbelief.
She cited a 1952 steel strike that was scheduled during the Korean War that culminated with a landmark Supreme Court decision (Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer,343 U.S. 579).
“President Harry S. Truman nationalized the American steel industry hours before the workers walked out,” she said. “But steel companies sued to regain control of their facilities, and when the Supreme Court ruled that Truman did not have the authority to do what he did, and he handed them back over, many nations couldn’t believe that. Today, as justices in that same court, we have to work together to keep the court in the high regard that it holds.”