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Does Justice Ginsberg’s Confession Point to a Need to Remove Judges after a Certain Age?

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Published on: February 15, 2015

For those of us who watched the State of the Union address, this is not really news. We knew the moment the judges were shown on television: Ruth Bader Ginsberg was asleep during the President’s speech. Everyone kept quiet about it for several reasons. In my case, it was kind of like seeing the aged deacon doze in church. You know it’s wrong, but you take their age into consideration. For others, they really need Ginsberg to look competent for political reasons. But no one would have guessed the reason the liberal judge had fallen asleep. reports:

During an interview on Friday hosted at George Washington University and moderated by NPR’s Nina Totenberg, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg admitting falling asleep during this year’s State of the Union address, stating that she had been drinking that night.

She claimed:    

“The audience for the most part is awake because they are bobbing up and down and we sit there, stone-faced, sober judges.”

“But we’re not—at least I was not—100 percent sober.”

According to Justice Ginsberg she had shared in a bottle of wine at diner. The wine was supposed to have been brought by Justice Anthony Kennedy. This was used to explain away the faux pas. But it also might be her “go to” excuse, as this is not the first time that she has fallen asleep during the State of the Union Address.

Now, before you say that I am just picking on the Justice because she had a drink, let me stop you. I am not a teetotaler. I do not believe that there is a prohibition on drinking alcohol to be found in Scripture. In fact, I believe the Bible teaches that wine is a gift of God. Psalm 104:14-15 says that wine is given by God to make the heart glad. No, I wish to point out something that might have been missed. also reported:

According to the Washington Post, in 2013, Ginsberg stated that a “very good California wine that Tony Kennedy brought” was the reason why she dozed off during the 2012 State of the Union address.

Now, it might be that Justice Kennedy has the habit of bringing wine to every State of the Union night dinner. He might get the Justices sloshed every time the President is about to speak. It might be his way of suppressing the laughter; I don’t know. But it seems as if this is a little too close a tale to be different times. At 81, who could blame Ginsberg for getting confused?

And here is where we need to think through this system of ours. When do we begin to have competency hearings for these people? We treat them as if they are all-knowing, but is Ginsberg not an example of one who is not? It might be that she is using the same excuse she used in 2013. It works, so she used it again. But what if she got confused?

Should we not encourage a retirement age for such positions? As important as a role these Justices play in our legal system, would we not benefit in making sure that their minds are up to the rigors of the job? Just a question.


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