[JURIST] US Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg [official biography, PDF] underwent surgery [press release] Thursday in New York for pancreatic cancer [Mayo Clinic backgrounder]. Ginsburg, 75, is expected to remain at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center [official website] in New York, where the surgery was performed, for seven to 10 days before being released. According to the Supreme Court, Ginsburg had no symptoms of the disease before it was discovered during a routine physical examination in late January. Pancreatic cancer has a low survival rate upon diagnosis, but early discovery and treatment of the condition can improve the patient's prognosis. Ginsburg was diagnosed and treated with radiation and chemotherapy for rectal cancer [AP report] in 1999.
News of Ginsburg's illness comes during a period of heightened speculation over the future ideological direction of the Supreme Court during the administration of President Barack Obama [official profile]. In a recent column for the website Slate, senior editor Dahlia Lithwick called for [Slate op-ed] the appointment of a liberal justice in the mold of conservative Associate Justice Antonin Scalia [official biography, PDF]. In a recent article, Adam Liptak of the New York Times discussed the possible decisions [NYT report] facing Obama with respect to the aging so-called "liberal wing" of the Supreme Court, including Ginsburg, Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, and Associate Justice Stephen Breyer [official profiles, PDF].