U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said one of her great fears is that the federal judiciary will start to be seen as just another political branch of government divided along partisan lines, just like Congress.
Ginsburg skipped President Donald Trump's first State of the Union address Tuesday, instead speaking at Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island.
She did not discuss Trump, but bemoaned the partisan atmosphere in Washington, in particular the divisive process for confirming judges. She pointed to fights over the last four justices appointed to the court.
"Four fine justices who should have gotten overwhelming support but got many negative votes," she said. "I think it will take great leaders on both sides of the aisle to say 'Let's stop this nonsense and start working for our country the way we should.'"
"We have a great federal judiciary, and I hope we can keep it," she added.
She also expressed hope that the period of intense partisanship would pass, comparing it to the 1950s, when McCarthyism and the Red Scare led the country to stray from its most fundamental values.
"That time has passed. This time will too. We have something so wonderful in this nation," she said. "That Democracy exists. It would be tragic to lose it. And I think good people no matter whether Democrat or Republican appreciate that."
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Ginsburg praised three female senators for working across the aisle: Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Maine Republican Susan Collins.
The 84-year-old justice said she feels fine and attributed her health to her personal trainer, who published a book on the justice's workout last year.
"Many reporters want to know about the routine. Most of them fail miserably," she said, laughing and shaking her head.
She dodged a question asking her thoughts about how "Saturday Night Live" depicts her lifting weights, popping vitamins and determined to outlast the Trump administration, by pointing out that the actress who portrays her, Kate McKinnon, has the same name as the lawyer Catherine MacKinnon, who pioneered sexual harassment law.