Monday, February 9, 2009

The Hardest Working Woman in Justice

James Brown may have been the hardest working man in show business, but he had nothing on our very own [Baby] Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Despite having a job with lifetime tenure, Ginsburg has the work ethic of a recent immigrant (an undocumented one at that).

Despite undergoing surgery for pancreatic cancer (not exactly a minor ailment) last week, the only female justice is planning to return to work in less than three weeks, when the Court's public hearings resume.  Of course, this is nothing new for the toughest Supreme Court justice ever.  In 1999, she underwent surgery for colon cancer, followed by chemotherapy and radiation, and get this ... she didn't miss a single day of work ... at a government job!  That should be illegal!

In fact, it does seem to violate the basic tenets of fairness in public/private sector trade-off.  In the public sector, you earn less money.  However, in return, you enjoy a greater level of job security and more expansive benefits coverage.  Well, last year, Ginsburg earned less as a Supreme Court justice than some first-year associates in large Manhattan law firms.  I think that fact alone entitles her to at least a long weekend after emergency surgery.   After all, even the worst sweat shop law firm in existence (i.e., your firm) wouldn't expect an associate to come into work under these circumstances (unless he or she expected to make partner someday).

Seriously, Ginsburg is setting a horrible precedent here.  Before you know it, people will begin to expect that the Post Office will have more than one line open at a time or that the Department of Motor Vehicles will have any lines open ever.  That's simply unrealistic!  One of the great perks of a public sector job is that you can take time off if you need to (or just feel like it).  However, Ruthie refuses to utilize her perk, which as I see it, is the equivalent of a McDonald's worker refusing to take home free French fries, or a movie theater employee refusing to sneak into movies, or an Obama-appointee insisting on paying all of their taxes.  It's truly remarkable!

Of course, an even better question is: "What is she doing on the Court that makes her so indispensable?"  Does she have the only set of keys to the justices' washroom?  Is she the only one who can clap with the right timing to turn on the lights in chambers?  Seriously, would the Court grind to a halt if she took a single day off?  After all, if the third branch of government can't function without a 75-year-old grandmother then perhaps, we should stop calling it the Judicial Branch and start calling it Sasha and Malia.

After all, if Justice Kennedy went AWOL that would be one thing.  We need him -- he's the swing vote.   He's the judicial equivalent of the undecided voter in Ohio on the eve of the election.  You find it hard to believe that your freedoms lie in the hands of such a person, but what can you really do about it?

On the other hand, Justice Ginsburg is like the Democratic Party loyalist in Massachusetts.  Her vote was decided way back during the primary -- the 1936 primary.  The news anchors are simply waiting for the polls close to project the winner with less than 1% of the vote cast.  In fact, her "state" has been permanently painted blue on the John King's Magic Map.  In short, Ginsburg can really just "phone it in."  It's really not that big of a deal.

So, Justice Ginsburg, you have been a true pioneer as a lawyer and a judge.  Your contributions to the law (and a woman's place in it) are too numerous to list.  I think that, perhaps, you've earned a sick day or two.  Or, at the very least, can you cough on Justice Scalia?  His opinion in last year's Heller case was obnoxious, even by his standards.

No comments: