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Odds on Next Supreme Court Justice to Leave: Ginsburg a -250 Favorite

Blair Johnson

by Blair Johnson in Politics News

Updated Apr 23, 2020 · 12:53 PM PDT

Group photo of the Roberts Court
The Roberts Court, November 30, 2018. Seated, from left to right: Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Samuel A. Alito. Standing, from left to right: Justices Neil M. Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Brett M. Kavanaugh. Photograph by Fred Schilling, Supreme Court Curator's Office. (Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the heavy favorite to be the next Supreme Court Justice to leave at -250
  • Clarence Thomas is the second-favorite at +325
  • Stephen Breyer is the third-favorite to leave the nation’s highest court at +800

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an American icon. The just-turned-87-year-old Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States is also the heavy favorite to be the next to leave her post at -250. She’s followed by Clarence Thomas at +325 and Stephen Breyer at +800.

Next Justice to Leave Supreme Court

Prop Odds
Ruth Bader Ginsburg -250
Clarence Thomas +325
Stephen Breyer +800
John Roberts +2500
Sonia Sotomayor +2500
Samuel Alito +5000
Brett Kavanaugh +10000
Elena Kagan +10000
Neil Gorsuch +10000

 Odds taken on March 19th

There’s are several reasons why RBG is the chalk. First, she’s the oldest Justice on the bench of the nation’s highest court at 87 years old. (Breyer is the only other SCOTUS octogenarian at 81.) Next, Ginsburg has had a series of health issues during her tenure (more on that later), including a recent bout with lung cancer.

Plus, if presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden beats Donald Trump in the November election (Trump is a slight favorite in the 2020 presidential odds tracker), it’s likely Ginsburg would step aside sooner than later so Biden could appoint a younger liberal-leaning judge after Trump’s conservative additions of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.

So is RBG worth a future wager at a short -250 price? Or are Thomas or Breyer better values? Let’s analyze and make a pick.

The Notorious R.B.G.

If you’re an 87-year-old white grandmother whose nickname is an homage to a deceased black rapper who was 24 years old at the time of his death, chances are you’re one tough cookie. In short, that’s all you need to know about Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


Biggie and the former Ms. Bader (who is 5-foot-1) both hailed from Brooklyn. And both are legendary in different ways. But let’s focus on Ginsburg.

The woman has beaten three different types of cancer (colon, pancreatic and lung) in the last 20 years.  For many, any one of those diseases would be lethal. But as of January 2020, she’s cancer-free. Since her bout with colon cancer in 1999, she trains twice-a-week with a former Army reservist attached to the Special Forces. She did 20 push-ups before her 80th birthday.

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It would appear she isn’t going anywhere. She’s publicly stated her “model” is former Justice John Paul Stevens — who stayed on the bench until he was 90. RBG has proven time and again you shouldn’t bet against her.

The Others

So if not the indefatigable Ginsburg, who leaves next? You can eliminate Gorsuch, Kavanuagh, Kagan, Sotomayor, Alito and Roberts from the running. Barring an unexpected tragedy, all of those mentioned are relatively young and in decent shape. That leaves Breyer (81) and Thomas (71) as the only other possibilities.

Thomas is the longest-tenured current Justice at over 28 years. And while Thomas had tumultuous confirmation hearings (setting the stage for Kavanaugh years later), the second African-American judge in the Supreme Court’s history has had a quiet run in Washington. Literally. Widely-viewed as the most conservative member of the nine- justice court, Thomas rarely speaks during oral arguments.

Then, there’s Breyer.   Like Ginsburg, the California native was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Clinton. And like the high court’s most recent retiree (Anthony Kennedy — also a California native), Breyer is viewed as a pragmatist. But would Breyer step away somewhat surprisingly early like Kennedy did? That’s the question.

November Reign

Which of the three Justices leave SCOTUS first boils down to the outcome of November’s election. While Trump was still a slight favorite over Biden on the odds tracker (-116 vs. +102), the two are in a dead heat (both are at -105). And with the way Trump has handled the coronavirus crisis so far, Biden could emerge as the slight favorite favorite heading into Nov. 3.

A Biden win makes a Ginsburg or Breyer departure more likely, simply due to a President in place that would appoint a younger like-minded Justice. But a Biden victory could also embolden Thomas to stick around — as the Court’s conservative voice — for as long as possible.

A New York Times piece earlier this week pointed out Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has urged Federal judges considering retiring to do so now — to ensure Republicans can confirm their replacements this year.

I expect Biden to defeat Trump in November, therefore the choice comes down to RBG and Breyer. And even though she’s bucked the odds for decades, in that scenario, would be the most likely to leave before Breyer. And while it might take a few years, she could go out with the peace of mind that a younger Justice would succeed her.

My pick: Ruth Bader Ginsburg (-250)

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