POJOAQUE, N.M. — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said split 4-4 decisions by the short-handed high court have left important public policy issues up in the air, including the president's immigration plan, that are likely to be revisited by the court in the future.
Addressing a gathering of attorneys in New Mexico on Friday, Ginsburg highlighted the impact of recent split decisions by the Supreme Court that left in place lower court rulings on immigration, organized labor fees and the ability of Native American tribal courts to decide controversies involving visitors.
The Supreme Court has been working without a ninth justice since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February. Senate Republicans have refused to hold confirmation hearings for Obama's Supreme Court nominee ahead of the presidential election.
Ginsberg said eight justices "was not good enough" to decide several crucial cases.
"When we are evenly divided, it is equivalent to denying review," Ginsburg said. "There were important issues in these four cases that we were unable to decide, and they will come back again and one of them was the president's immigration policy."
The 83-year-old Brooklyn native, who was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993 by Bill Clinton, made no mention Friday of the ongoing presidential campaign or her controversial comments last month about GOP nominee Donald Trump.
In a series of media interviews in July, Ginsburg said she did not want to think about the possibility of a Trump presidency, describing the GOP presidential contender as a "faker" who "really has an ego." She later said she regretted her "ill-advised" public criticism.
Members of the New Mexico State Bar Association and their guests flocked to a casino resort north of Santa Fe to hear from Ginsburg, an anchor on the liberal wing of the current eight-member court and counterweight to conservative Chief Justice John Roberts.
The Supreme Court deadlocked on a decision in March that threatened the ability of public-sector unions to collect fees from workers who don't want to join unions or pay for collective bargaining activities, in a victory for organized labor.
In June, a 4-4 tie among justices effectively ended a federal program that would have shielded millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation to work legally in the U.S.