Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has just found herself at the center of a fake news controversy again.
Twitter user Lynda G. Dodd noticed with disapproval that according to RBG biographer Jane Sherron De Hart, “Justice Ginsburg will not make her papers available for a CENTURY after the last justice with whom she served has died.”
There was immediate outrage over the news, and rightfully so.
It seemed unusual for Ginsburg to make such a declaration, as she has been generally transparent during her time on the bench and very accommodating to researchers.
And, as it turns out, the claim isn’t true.
A spokesperson for the Supreme Court pushed back on the statement. Kathy Arberg, who is the Head of Public Information, told The National Law Journal, “The arrangements mentioned in the book are not true. The Justice has not announced her plans for her Supreme Court papers and would never impose such a restriction.”
The author of the biography made an assumption rather than discussing this subject with Ginsburg herself. De Hart told the Journal, “My information is based on the guide to the RBG papers in the manuscripts division of the Library of Congress.”
“It is not a matter that I have ever discussed with the Justice,” she clarified.
Protecting the Papers
Justices usually make arrangements for their papers upon their death. This is not something that is regularly discussed prior with the public.
In most cases, there is a delay on publishing the papers to protect other Justices that are still on the court or that are still alive.
While Justices will often have their own papers published after a short delay, they will often have stipulations to delay publication of any papers involving active and/or justices that are still alive.
For instance, deceased Justice Antonin Scalia will have limited papers published effective 2020.
However, any cases involving other justices will not be published until the other justices involved have passed.