President Donald Trump might have been hoping that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would retire by the end of this term so he could nominate a second justice, but newsflash: She isn't going anywhere.
The justice announced last week that she's hired law clerks for the next two terms, the only justice to achieve that so far. The hiring of the four clerks for the 2019-2020 term — Columbia Law graduate Alyssa Barnard; Harvard Law graduates Marco Basile and Susan Pelletier; and Stanford Law graduate Michael Qian — signals that Ginsburg is not planning on retiring anytime soon. Historically, when a justice plans on stepping down, they don't hire a full slate of clerks for the upcoming term — much less for a term beginning in 21 months.
"Notorious RBG," as she's known by her fans, is a liberal darling. Even before she was sworn-in in August 1993, she had already spent her career fighting for the rights of women and minorities She helped create the ACLU Women's Rights Project. The self-proclaimed "flaming feminist litigator" has also played a crucial role spearheading the bench's progressive wings over the last 24 years: Her first majority opinion was in United States v. Virginia, a 1996 case in which the Supreme Court decided that the Virginia Military Institute, which at the time was the last all-male public undergraduate university, had to allow women. She's also pushed for equal pay, siding with Lily Ledbetter and writing the dissent on the 2007 case Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, and has defended women's right to privacy when it comes to abortion, writing on the concurring opinion for Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt — the biggest abortion rights case since Roe v. Wade — that it was "beyond rational belief" that Texas's HB2 law "could genuinely protect the health of women."
The news of the hirings is also likely to squash Trump's hopes of filling a second seat in the Supreme Court during his first term in office. The president has been itching for someone like Ginsburg, who's 84, or Justice Anthony Kennedy, who's 81, to announce they're retiring. He has even released a shortlist of potential nominees even though there are no vacancies.
Ginsburg in particular has been a thorn in Trump's side for a while now. When he was a candidate, the justice didn't hold back in her criticism, saying she feared what impact he would have on the Supreme Court.
“I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president,” she told The New York Times in July 2016. “For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.”
At the time she also called him a "faker" with a big "ego," which led to Trump calling for her to resign. Ginsburg apologized and has refrained from criticizing the president since he took office last year.
Trump has definitely been pushing the courts to the right: One of his first major acts as president was nominating Justice Neil Gorsuch, a conservative in the same vein as his predecessor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. He also has been filling lifetime seats in the lower courts with young, right-leaning judges (mostly white and male) who will decide thousands of cases related to civil rights, criminal justice, environmental issues, and other topics through a conservative lens.
But at least for the next two years, Ginsburg is making good on a promise she made last October when asked about her retirement: "My answer is as long as I can do the job full steam, I will do it."