Ginsburg Hints at Sharp Divides as Supreme Court Term Nears End

Greg Stohr
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Ginsburg Hints at Sharp Divides as Supreme Court Term Nears End

(Bloomberg) -- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hinted that sharp divisions will mark the final weeks of a Supreme Court term that will include major rulings on the census and partisan gerrymandering.

Speaking before the annual conference of federal judges in New York, Ginsburg suggested that more than a quarter of the court’s remaining 27 rulings will be decided by a single vote. Of the 43 argued cases settled so far, 11 were by a vote of either 5-4 or 5-3, she said.

“Given the number of most-watched cases still unannounced, I cannot predict that the relatively low sharp divisions ratio will hold,” the 86-year-old justice said, according to a copy of her remarks provided by the court on Friday.

The justices are scheduled to finish their nine-month term at the end of this month. It’s the first session since Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the court and strengthened its conservative majority.

Ginsburg has made an annual practice of summarizing the high court’s term at the June conference, often offering what seem to be tantalizing hints about the outcome of the court’s biggest disputes.

‘Breaking Point’

She touched on both the census and gerrymandering cases in her remarks Friday. She linked the census case, which will determine whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross can include a question about citizenship in the 2020 survey, to the court’s decision last year upholding President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

The travel ban ruling “granted great deference to the executive,” Ginsburg said. Opponents of the citizenship question “have argued that a ruling in Secretary Ross’s favor would stretch deference beyond the breaking point.”

The two gerrymandering cases could resolve whether voting maps can be challenged as being so partisan they violate the Constitution.

“However one comes out on the legal issues, partisan gerrymandering unsettles the fundamental premise that people elect their representatives, not vice versa,” Ginsburg said.

(Updates with remarks about census, gerrymandering cases starting in sixth paragraph.)

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