Supreme Court

Ruth Bader Ginsburg "Regrets" Her Remarks on Donald Trump, But Should She?

A little transparency about the political opinions of Supreme Court justices isn't the worst thing in the world.

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Notorious RBG
Flickr/Ed Demaria/Medill News Service

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a statement this morning regarding the controversial comments she made in recent interviews with the New York Times, the Associated Press, and CNN about presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Ginsburg's statement reads in full:

On reflection, my recent remarks in response to press inquiries were ill-advised and I regret making them. Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. In the future I will be more circumspect.

In the interviews in question, Ginsburg described Trump as a "faker" and said she "can't imagine what the country would be" if he were elected president. She also (apparently) joked about moving to New Zealand in the event of a Trump Administration. 

Criticism of the justice known affectionately by her fans as "Notorious RBG" has poured in from across the political spectrum, with the New York Times editorial board writing that Ginsburg "needs to drop the political punditry and the name-calling" and that "Washington is more than partisan enough without the spectacle of a Supreme Court justice flinging herself into the mosh pit." Paul Waldman writes at The Week that Ginsburg's "breach of decorum" was understandable because Trump is a "profound threat." But, Waldman cautions, "If you're going to discard a valuable norm, it can't just be because you're exceedingly mad." 

Other outlets got more specific about the potential pitfalls of a Supreme Court justice expressing a political opinion, such as the Los Angeles Times editorial board, which notes that while Supreme Court justices are not bound to follow the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, Chief Justice John Roberts has said, "All members of the court do in fact consult the Code of Conduct in assessing their ethical obligations," which does not allow for judges to "publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for public office."

For its part, the Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote that Ginsburg's candor is a case of "overt partisanship from a judge [which] should disqualify her from hearing any case related to the presidential election—such as voter ID laws," while the USA Today editorial board fretted that Ginsburg "places in jeopardy any pretension of fairness toward that candidate's administration, should [Trump] win."

The reaction from the right — that Ginsburg's admitted distaste for Trump disqualifies her from ruling on anything related to a potential Trump administration — is fairly predictable, and as the LA Times points out, it is "the appearance of impropriety" that is so potentially problematic.

While it's understandable that judges must be required to remain impartial on a personal basis when it comes to adjudicating cases brought before them, there's something strange about requiring human beings who (for the most part) will live and work in Washington, DC at the same job for decades to not have any political identities.

Supreme Court justices are political appointees who make their personal politics known on nearly every decision. Justice is supposed to be blind, and justices are supposed to be merely interpreting the law, but does anyone really believe every Supreme Court justice hasn't at some point held some personal or political enmity toward a president of the opposite party, and that one of their decisions might have been affected as a result?

It's certainly advisable for the Supreme Court to avoid becoming as nakedly partisan as say, Congress. But that's supposedly why justices have lifetime appointments, to shield them from outside political influence. To act as if justices are like sequestered jurors — trapped in their hotels and blind to the outside world to maintain impartiality — is silly.

A little transparency and frankness from the mysteriously-cloaked figures who appear before the public only a few times a year, in a courtroom with no cameras, isn't necessarily the worst thing in the world.

NEXT: Second Amendment protects former soldier who had been psychiatrically committed 10 years ago, when he was 15

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  1. This ought to be good.

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  2. She doesn’t regret her remarks. What she regrets is that people called out her unwisdom in saying them.

    1. “Never mind…”

    2. She is entitled to her personal opinions, no? What’s wrong with that?

      Was she making the remarks as a judge or as an ordinary citizen? (it’s a serious question because I don’t know).

      Regardless, whether a Supreme Court judge explicitly states it or not, s/he will always have personal and partial opinions, and they are reflected in their decisions.

      Again, where are we going to find the angels that will make all the “right” or “impartial” decisions.

      The only way to stop a government from being intrusive (among other things) is to have as small of a government as possible.

      1. Speaking publicly on matters that might reasonably come before the court, as a Trump election surely could, has been avoided by justices in the modern era. I would rather know the biases of the Court, but other people feel that it makes the opinions less powerful if you know that three people had personal biases against the principals in a case.

        1. So basically other people are just trying to fool themselves?

          Biases (consciously or subconsciously) exist because we are human beings. Some biases are stronger than others, and some people’s actions reflect them more than others. It is not even quantifiable.

          It baffles me that people continue to fault the individuals rather than the system.

    3. What she regrets is that she lowered herself to Trump’s level.

      1. So does Rubio.

  3. In the future I will be more circumspect.

    If they ask about Hillary’s legal shortcomings, anyway.

  4. Fortunately she won’t have to worry about making untoward remarks about the next election.

    1. IS THAT A THREAT HUGH AKTON

      1. Paging Preet

  5. Hell yes, she should “regret” it. Its a gross violation of judicial ethics. The only remediation would be to either (a) resign, because her impartiality has been publicly and irretrievably compromised or (b) recusal from any case with partisan overtones.

    1. Here we go:

      Canon 5 – A judge should not . . . publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for public office.

      http://www.uscourts.gov/judges…..s-judges#f

      A black letter violation of judicial ethics. Not even debatable. Technically (and think about this for a moment) not binding on SCOTUS, but c’mon.

      1. And now that it has been done once, it will be done again and again and again until it is common practice.

      2. How can a judge be unbiased in a case and simultaneously express contempt for whatever executive is bringing the case before the judge?

        The reason Supreme Court justices are appointed for life isn’t because they’re supposed to be all about who is or isn’t elected to be the next President.

      3. I was reading an article that suggested it only applied to lower court justices. True? Not true?

    2. The classic behavior of a raging asshole. Say something abusive and outrageous. Make fake public apology. Repeat.

      1. If you skip the public apology part, you can run for president.

      2. Trump just skips the public apology part.

    3. ^This.

      Handwaiving it away with ‘c’mon she’s only human’ is bullshit.

      Other than being a progressive hack I cant understand why anyone would put her on the court. (Yeah, I am looking at you, pathetic spineless Senate R’s)

      1. She was nominated in 1993. At the time, the Dems controlled the Senate. I suppose the R’s could have filibustered, but it probably wouldn’t have done much good anyway.

    4. So, Florida recount, Trump wins 4-3?

    5. This is bullshit. Trump recites the GO Pee platform verbatim and this old gal slaps down ku-klux abortion laws in Texas. Bookies are laying better than 3 to 1 odds the party that does not force women to reproduce at gunpoint will win. Her comments were superfluous because Mrs Clinton has such a huge lead only a heart attack could make her lose.

  6. She showed her dislike for the 1st and 2ed amendments too.She shouldn’t be ruling on those either.Hateful bitch.

  7. If only she had gone ducking hunting with Trump instead.

    1. Trump is that sniggering dog, right?

  8. Multi-judge courts, including appeals courts and the supreme court, should have unanimous decisions; if learned judges can’t agree on the plain meaning of a law or case, how can mere peons be expected to follow them? I say if the judges can’t agree, the case or law in question should be thrown out as too damned confusing for mere mortals.

    That might encourage a little more cooperation and discourage extreme cases. It would certainly be more just.

    1. interesting. If juries have to be unanimous, then so should courts.

      1. Damn straight!

    2. Yes as to criminal cases – if they can’t even agree on whether what the defendant did was a crime, or whether the law under which he’s being punished is constitutional, instant Not Guilty verdict.

      1. All cases, not just criminal. If learned judges can’t agree on the meaning of a traffic law or contract clause, how can ordinary people be expected to know better?

  9. Zombie Ginsburg just needs moar braaains..

    1. Send her some Trump supporters. They’re not using theirs.

  10. “A little transparency about the political opinions of Supreme Court justices isn’t the worst thing in the world.”

    She said she couldn’t imagine an America with Donald Trump as President because he’s so awful?

    If Trump wins as President, is she going to recuse herself from every case brought before the Court by the Trump Administration?

    If there’s an issue that comes before the Court on voter IDs, is Ginsberg going to recurse herself because she’s openly biased against whatever outcome might hurt or help Trump be reelected?

    Ginsberg cannot be effective on the Court anymore. She should resign regardless of whether Trump wins.

    1. Right she used the demo-rat talking points verbatim. Not exactly a subtle.

  11. To act as if justices are like sequestered jurors ? trapped in their hotels and blind to the outside world to maintain impartiality ? is silly.

    It might be “silly” but it’s a job requirement. Anybody who can’t meet it shouldn’t be in the job. Of course they’ll have personal opinions, but if they can’t keep them out of their job they should find another line of work. Common folk are expected to keep their prejudices out of their jobs.

    Yes, it’s a high standard. Painfully high. High standards are necessary for positions that wield great power.

  12. In the future I will be more circumspect.

    “Of course, it’s always the *present*. BWAHAHAHAHAHAAA!!”

    1. Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’
      Into the future
      Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’
      Into the future

      I want to fly like an pigeon
      To the city dump
      Fly like an pigeon
      Spray droppings on folks below me
      I want to fly like an pigeon
      Till I’m free
      Oh, Lord, through the election

  13. “A little transparency about the political opinions of Supreme Court justices isn’t the worst thing in the world.”

    Based on this slippage, I was shocked to find out that she holds a liberal bias. Who’d of thunk? She’s always been so careful to keep her political opinions to herself.

  14. The network evening newscasts are a window into how the rest of the country might perceive this kind of issue. While ABC did grant that Ginsburg’s comments were unusual, the flavor was more about this spat between Trump the loudmouth and a frail but feisty old woman. When in fact it is clear cut, as R.C. points out above, violation of jucicial ethics.

    1. “Veteran feminist champion speaks truth to power!”

    2. Even if it isn’t a violation of ethics, average people recognize it as wrong.

      Judges are supposed to be unbiased. That isn’t even a specifically American thing. It’s that way in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, too.

      It goes back to the Magna Carta–before the Magna Carta, really.

      Maybe progressives want a biased and politicized Court, as a matter of platform, but average people instinctively react badly to that.

      There doesn’t need to be a law against it for average voters to recognize it as shitty behavior. Everybody who already feels like the courts, the laws, the legislature, and our politicians are stacked against them–feels in their bones, now, that Ginsberg and the Court are their enemy.

      1. average people recognize it as wrong.

        Anthony seems to approve. So does that mean he’s above average, or below average?

        1. It may mean his contempt for Trump is driving his thinking on this.

          Wasn’t Anthony the one who compared the Michelle Fields incident to the behavior of Nazi brown shirts, too?

          That’s dangerously close to Trump Derangement Syndrome–to despising Trump so much that it clouds the rest of our thinking.

          We’re all susceptible, but some genuinely good people are more susceptible than others.

          I check myself by trying to think of something I like about the politicians I despise. Within the context of debate about whether Congress should have given Obama the authority to do what he did in Libya, I support Obama on that. I think I’m safe on that one–no Obama Derangement Syndrome.

          I admit I can’t think of anything to like about Hillary, but I console myself with the assumption that if she ever does anything that isn’t completely awful, I’ll call it like I see it. It’s just that that hasn’t happened yet.

          1. I check myself by trying to think of something I like about the politicians I despise.

            I’m pretty much in agreement with Hillary on abortion, for example. Or, at least, she’s said things about abortion that I agree with.

            1. I check myself by trying to think of something I like about the politicians I despise

              Hitler loved dogs and treated them well.

              Am i doing it right?

              1. That just means you don’t have Hitler Derangement Syndrome.

                If you can think of something to like about Hitler but not Hillary, there may be a problem with Hillary Derangement Syndrome.

                Hillary . . . um . . . she doesn’t . . . eat people’s children–at least not that I’m aware of.

                Pretty feeble attempt, I know. Honestly, I may have a problem there.

                1. Ummm… I love her fashion sense.

                  I tried…

                  1. She is bold in her color selection, wearing colors that the feint of heart would shirk from.

                  2. She was just a victim of circus pants.

      2. And if Trump is smart (or had me to advise him), he’d not shoot back, but calmly point out this is another symptom of our “rigged system”. The insiders will even violate their duty as a judge to try to keep an outsider out.

        1. Yeah, if he wins, it’ll mostly be in spite of what he does and says–not because of it.

          When he says things that ring true and are popular, it’s mostly by accident.

          Nobody rational would tell him, “Okay, the first thing we’re going to do is piss off the establishment, break the Republican Party in two, and bait the mainstream media into denouncing you as a disgusting racist.

          Step two: . . .”.

          1. When he says things that ring true and are popular, it’s mostly by accident.

            Speaking of TDS . . .

            “When Trump says good things, he doesn’t mean them. When he says bad things, those come from the heart. He’ll do the bad things, and only the bad things, but none of the good things.”

        2. “And if Trump is smart (or had me to advise him), he’d not shoot back, but calmly point out this is another symptom of our “rigged system”.”

          That sounds like what Mitt Romney would have done. But he lost. The media burned him on ridiculous things, like having his dog in a cage on the top of a car or having “binders full of women” for job applications.

          Trump’s approach is working. Does anyone think the two above stories would stick to Trump for a millisecond? Trump would openly laugh if a reporter tried to question him about that kind of manufactured controversy.

          I’m often aghast at Trump’s rhetoric, but his strategy is working. I still don’t think he’ll win.

      3. The worst part is that it makes obvious what everyone knows but no one is supposed to say — the Supreme Court isn’t an impartial panel of high legal experts striving to find the correct constitutional interpretation of difficult legal cases. It is instead a panel of political appointees, skilled at constructing plausible legal arguments to support their partisan views. When no plausible legal argument can be made that supports their pre-existing views, they rely on precedent instead.

      4. The Pope of Rome nullified the Magna Carta…. it’s a dead letter.

  15. Is the left really so insane that they can’t bring themselves to criticize Trump without doing him a big favor? Every time you start hearing about Trump lacking the funds and organization needed to win, some stupid leftist gives him the kind of free publicity you just can’t buy.

    If the The New York Times and Ginsberg had stayed up all night trying to think of new and better ways to give Trump free positive publicity, they might not have come up with anything better than what they did in this story.

    Honestly, fear of another progressive Supreme Court justice is one of the few legitimately good reasons to vote for Trump–and Ginsberg and dummies at the Times even made it about that!

    Well, I guess they tried demonizing whites for being racist, Christians for being homophobes, blue collars workers for being stupid, and the middle class for destroying the environment with their standard of living–and that didn’t seem to work. Trump remained neck and neck with Hillary anyway! I guess it was only natural to try politicizing the Supreme Court against him.

    If this doesn’t work, maybe they’ll go after the white, blue collar, Christian, middle class with water cannons or something. And if that won’t make the progressives popular, then I don’t know what they’ll do.

    1. I thought the New York Times cautioned Ginsburg that she’d stepped out of line and hurt the progressive cause. That’s at least how I read their editorial.

      1. Ah, yes, the editorial says Ginsburg “cho[]se to descend toward [Trump’s] level.” She hasn’t got there yet, of course! But imagine if the election went to the Supreme Court like in 2000, Ginsburg would obviously have to recuse herself – and the Dems would lose a key vote.

        1. The part about Dems losing a key vote was my interpretation of the Times-speak, but they *did* invoke the 2000 election and said Ginsburg was now too biased to rule in a Presidential election case.

        2. Even more bias. She didn’t fuck up, she descended to Trump’s level. So really it’s still his fault.

      2. I appreciate they wrote that–after the fact.

        I hope you appreciate that my point wasn’t that the The New York Times and Ginsberg were conspiring to give Trump free positive publicity that couldn’t be bought otherwise.

        My point was that the left’s ham-handed attempts to attack Trump always seem to backfire.

        IF IF IF they were conspiring to help Trump, they could hardly have done a better job. No, they weren’t actually trying to help him, and if what she said was so bad the Times is practically apologizing for it, that shows how pathetic it was.

        The interesting question is why so many people on the left–both political figures and media types–misfire so badly so often?

        I think the central problem is that they truly are contemptuous of everyday average people. Their contempt for Trump is genuinely grounded in elitism, and when they spill their guts, it’s all elitism that comes out. If Trump wins, it’ll be because the election becomes a referendum on elitism. I’m not sure Trump is smart enough to make it about that by himself–but there is a never ending line of progressives who are eager to shoot their mouths off and tell American show America how much contempt they have for average Americans. They just can’t stop themselves.

        They open their mouths or send in their stories and the elitism spills out all over the place.

        1. everyday average people……not directed at you Ken, but even that kind of language pisses me off. I am not an ordinary person, or a civilian (vis a vis the police). I prefer the term “private citizen”.

          1. By everday average people, I mean caucasians, heterosexuals, Christians, blue collar workers, gun owners, middle class people who make more than $40,000 a year, et. al.

            No, I don’t mean people who are all those things–I mean people who are ANY of those things.

            The progressives hate them all.

            They hates whites for being racist because they’re white.

            They hate Christians for being homophobes because they’re Christians.

            They hate the middle class not being willing to sacrifice their standard of living for the environment.

            They hate blue collar workers for being stupid.

            They hate law abiding gun owners for supporting mass murder.

            The progressives have managed to demonize everyday average Americans for being everyday average Americans.

            The problem with progressives is that eventually they run out of other people to hate.

            That’s what I was trying to say.

  16. Just another day in Post Rule-of-Law America.

    1. This is no social crisis
      Just another tricky day for you

      1. We’re heading for the day of reckoning,

        I’m telling ya. It’s all building up to something,

        something that can only be redeemed with fire

  17. More b.s. from Truth Hater Chin Turd.

    1. It’s “Booty Raider Ginsburg” IIRC

    2. Snore-torious RBG

  18. Ruth Bader Ginsburg “Regrets” Her Remarks on Donald Trump, But Should She?

    From the standpoint that it was counterproductive to her presumed goal of hurting Trump’s poll numbers, yes, she should. From any other point of view, probably not. And really, who the fuck cares what that old bitty thinks anyway?

  19. Old hag needs to retire. The masks on the Statists/Progs seems to be coming off more frequently now.

  20. This election is shaping up as an insider v outsider election, a “more of the same” v “we need a change” election. And it sure looks like the outsider/we need a change side has the wind in its sails.

    RGB’s comments just fan the flames, that there is a clubby little group if insiders who take care of each other and the rest of us can just go hang. Its of a piece with Comey and Lynch, just to pick the most recent example.

    Probably worth another point or two for Trump in the polls. It helps cement the narrative of this campaign that helps Trump and hurts Hillary.

  21. On reflection, my recent remarks in response to press inquiries were ill-advised and I regret making them.

    “I regret making these ill-advised comments I made in three different interviews with three different outlets. They were all ill-advised. Every time. Yep, each of them. I regret it. Honest.”

    Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. In the future I will be more circumspect.

    Oh, please, don’t be more circumspect. We all want to know what you really think, you robed weasel.

    1. Why not? The lyingest candidates end up in the Senate vetting judges and blocking the ones they don’t like. I recall a Mr Bork, pothead, the looters ganged up to make sure HE never made it to the big bench. This is turnabout in the rough and tumble, sissies.

  22. Poor thing. She’s fucking retarded, and possibly senile. She’s easily the least intelligent justice and that is not a high bar.

    1. I would go with Kagan or possible Breyer on that.

      1. Kagan. Definitely Kagan. I half expect to see her next opinion in purple Crayola.

  23. I have just figured out why many leftist are so angry.She admitted she would like to ban guns and gut the 1st amendment.She showed how much contempt they have for many in this country. It’s not about Trump,it’s about the mask being removed.

  24. Damn, so she’s not moving to New Zealand?

  25. Justice is supposed to be blind.

    Put her eyes out.

  26. Ever notice that literally every picture of her looks like a dried up bitter old lady?

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  28. Ruth Bader Ginsberg saying that she regrets her remarks freely and without shame displays how much more class she has than either Trump or his vulgarian followers.

    Trump would never utter such a statement and neither would his followers. In their culture, showing respect to ones political opponents is a sign of weakness.

    1. She got caught in a breech of ethics. Should lose her job.

      What has Trump ever done that is similar?
      Ans. Nothing.

      Trump may be crass, but he isn’t undermining the justice system.

  29. Why do I get the imagery of someone robbing Ginsburg of her marble rye?

    1. Ginbserg.

  30. If she kept her mouth shut, she would be just as biased. Her crime isn’t against justice or fairness or anything like that, it’s against people’s faith in the false god of the statists.

    She’s like a cardinal that got caught on a hot mic sharing her opinion that miracles are a load of crap.

    People lose their faith in the cult of the Deus Ex Gladium, and a lot of people’s gravy train gets threatened.

  31. It certainly puts to rest the myth of the SCOTUS being an impartial arbiter of the law.

  32. I agree with most everything I read in Reason, but this is utterly wrong. Certainly Justices have their own beliefs on all matters, they are however, intended to keep them to themselves so as not to raise questions of partiality. I think her worse transgression was to State her position on cases and issues that are not currently before the court. That is called “pre-judging” a that they should not do. It definitely undermines the integrity and voice of the court when it does issue rulings on those issues. Yes, we know generally she is for reproductive freedom and against the current status of 2nd Amendment jurisprudence, but she has essentially prejudged cases involving those issues. As a result she has now invited further cases and controversies on those matters. Judges should not encourage litigation. Despite further litigation in those issues may reasonably be expected anyway, her comments might well encourage more and and encourage additional possible litigants to proceed.

  33. I’m surprised it took so long for a justice to become just another part of the petty partisan game. For 40 years, justices have been vetted for petty partisan single-issue reasons rather than either their personal judicial competence or their ability to improve the courts overall jurisprudence. The result is a court that is now full of talentless hacks who spent their entire careers checking the boxes of what is an extremely narrow ‘path to being a SC justice’ nowadays. I don’t think any SC decision has really surprised me in the last few decades and the only ‘surprise’ is whether the predictable justice-in-the-middle takes one predictable side or the other and thus makes it a majority. Its a historically crappy court

  34. How about they all just ditch the outdated high priest robes, and wear Team Red or Team Blue blazers?

  35. Ruth Bader Ginsburg “Regrets” Her Remarks on Donald Trump, But Should She? A little transparency about the political opinions of Supreme Court justices isn’t the worst thing in the world.

    Fucking useless to be transparent after a getting a lifetime appointment, you blithering ninnies.

  36. Proving now more than ever justice is not blind. #riggedsystem #agenda

  37. Of the 8 people in the photo, only 2 are men… kind of the inverse of the Libertarian Party makeup. It’s a pity we are too neuter and cowardly to have a pro-choice platform anymore.

  38. A more enlighten person would realize this topic is beyond his expertise.
    A jurist cannot state preferences and remain impartial. Even a hint of bias is the appearance of impropriety which is fatal to a seat on any bench. Ginsburg, who is a token on the not-so-supreme Court, is no great legal mind. This faux pas only proves her unfitness. If she had gonads, she would step down without fanfare.
    “Regret” is laughable, which frames your article suitably. ?2016 All rights reserved.

  39. dems are upset bc they expect to own the court by stuffing it with loyalists, and they’d prefer to be able to pretend that the court isn’t political to enhance acceptance of the resulting departure from the constitution.

  40. I used to respect Ginsburg as a cautious justice who I might not agree with, but who at least gave cases a fair hearing.

    But it seems her mask has slipped and we see the real RBG now. She’s just sorry she has exposed herself for the kind of person she is. Let her legacy be a picture with a dunce hat.

    Given her advanced age and frailty, she isn’t going to live this one down; her professions of what she is going to do “in the future” are risible.

  41. Our system works on faith more than anything else. The rule of law is useless if people lose faith in it.

    Lefties like RBG and her apologizers seem to think they have risen above that. That they are so sanctified that the faith of the people is no longer relevant.

    It’s not about her biases, it’s not about Scalia’s biases as the moron Hihn keeps spamming. It’s about RBG proving, in her own words, that she has the inability to control them. Everyone with half a brain know they have biases…and they know what they are for the most part. But now, RBG has openly acknowledged it…during an election year….to the media…that her opinions are so strong that she can’t help but speak them to the world. No one can have faith in her ability to be impartial going forward. The mask is gone and she has actively eroded the people’s faith in the system.

    That’s the issue, Anthony, not the nature of her biases or being more open about them. Without faith, our system collapses.

  42. I can think of a hundred things she ought to be far more regretful of having said.

  43. Public officials (public servants) are allowed to have opinions…the private sector doesn’t wish to hear them. This isn’t the first time the old battle ax opened her yap re her true ‘feelings’. Prior to the Obergefell ruling she officiated at a homosexual marriage, citing ‘constitution’ as reason. She should step down as her objectivity has been irreparably damaged.

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