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Ruth Bader Ginsburg misses court due to illness

Posted at 11:42 AM, Nov 13, 2019

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was not on the bench for oral arguments Wednesday due to illness, according to Chief Justice John Roberts .

Roberts announced she was "indisposed due to illness."

A court spokesperson said that Ginsburg was home with a stomach virus and that she is expected to participate in the cases by reading the briefs.

The oldest Supreme Court justice, Ginsburg leads the liberal wing on the court, which is currently outnumbered 5-4 by conservatives.

She has been an active participant from the bench this term, often asking the first questions. She was present Tuesday when the court heard one of the most important cases of the term concerning President Donald Trump's decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The Supreme Court is hearing an unusual docket of blockbuster cases this term including immigration, abortion and the Second Amendment.

Her health has long been an issue.

Ginsburg, 86, is a four-time cancer survivor and has been an active participant on the bench this term. In August, she announced that she was being treated for pancreatic cancer. At the time, the Court's public information officer said, "The tumor was treated definitively and there is no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body."

In 1999, she successfully underwent surgery to treat colon cancer. She was treated for early stages of pancreatic cancer in 2009. Last December, Ginsburg underwent surgery to remove two cancerous nodules from her left lung.

Ginsburg, who inspired the meme "Notorious RBG" and was the subject of a documentary and feature film in recent years, missed oral arguments for the first time last term while recovering, but participated in rulings via court transcripts and in writing.

After her last diagnosis, Ginsburg went on an extended multi-state speaking tour.

"This latest has been my fourth cancer battle and I found each time that when I'm active, I'm much better than if I'm just lying about and feeling sorry for myself," she said in New York at the Yale Club at an event hosted by Moment Magazine.

"It's a necessity to get up and go, it's stimulating, and somehow all these appearances that I've had since the end of August whatever my temporary disability is, it stops and I'm OK for the time of the event," she added.

Ginsburg has been known for reaching across ideological divides to build relationships with her fellow justices. This term, at the end of arguments, Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the court's most conservative justices, has extended a hand to Ginsburg, the court's liberal icon, to help her down the steps that leave out of the chamber.

Today marks the last sitting for November. The justices will meet behind closed doors on the Friday of this week, and will take the bench on Monday for a non-argument day. They won't hear arguments again until December 2.