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Can The Declining Health Of Supreme Court Justices Create A Constitutional Crisis?

health of supreme court justices

The health of supreme court justices in our nation is a very real concern.

Because of the questionable health of supreme court justices, our country might find itself without a functioning Supreme Court in the near future.
Washington insiders are worried because of the rate of injuries to members of the U.S. Supreme Court. The fear is that the health of the members of the nation’s highest court will trigger a political crisis.
Some of the speculations focus on Justice Sonya Sotomayor, who underwent shoulder surgery because of a fall at her home earlier this month, CNN reported. That is the second health crisis for Sotomayor this year; in January, paramedics were called to her home because of problems related to diabetes.
Ironically, Sotomayor is one of the youngest Supremes, she’s just 63. The average age of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice is 69, the median age in the United States is 37.8 years. Observers were concerned because Sotomayor’s arm was in a sling at recent hearings.

Health Of Supreme Court Justices Kept Secret

Sotomayor is not the first Supreme to appear on the bench with injuries. In 2013, the oldest justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg 85, wrote a noted dissent while nursing cracked ribs from a fall at her home. Ginsburg is also a cancer survivor; she was treated for colorectal cancer in 1999 and pancreatic cancer in 2009.
Justice Stephen Breyer, 79, was injured in bicycle accidents in spring 2011 and spring 2013. Breyer has given up riding, but there is a pattern of justices being hurt just as their term ends, CNN noted. No other injuries to members of the court have been reported this year.
The health of Supreme Court Justices is often a closely guarded secret. CNN noted that court officials keep the justices’ health secret. To make matters worse, the justices themselves often refuse to discuss their health with anybody besides their doctors.
This occurs because there is no law that requires U.S. Supreme Court justices to be physically or mentally fit. The 25th Amendment to the Constitution gives Congress the power to remove the President if he or she is unfit, but not the Supreme Court Justices.

Senator To Supreme Court Justices… Please Retire

“So my message to any one of the nine Supreme Court justices,” U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said on the Hugh Hewitt show on May 9. “If you’re thinking about quitting this year, do it yesterday.”
Grassley wants to avoid a repeat of what happened after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016. Republican Senators refused to hold necessary hearings on President Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia, Merrick Garland, because of the upcoming Presidential election.

Grassley is afraid Democrats will win control of the U.S. Senate in November and have the power to block any Supreme Court nominee President Trump proposes. Grassley also fears Democrats will block a Trump nominee to punish Republicans for not considering an Obama nominee. If a justice retired now, Republicans would have no problem approving the nomination because they control both the Senate and the White House.
An additional fear is that there would be only eight justices on the Supreme Court; that might lead to ties and make it impossible for the court to rule on issues. The Court has nine justices so that there will be no ties.
Part of the problem is that liberal Supreme Court Justices are doing their best to stick around until 2021 to see if a Democrat is elected President in 2020. That means, in the meantime,  the age and health of Supreme Court justices could trigger a political crisis as there is no Constitutional mechanism to deal with the issue directly.

Who would have thought that the health of supreme court justices would lead to this high tension, high stakes quagmire?

Could the U.S. actually find itself without a functioning Supreme Court in the near future?

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