By Andrew Chung
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg returned to the court on Friday for the first time after weeks of recuperating from lung cancer surgery and missing oral arguments in January, a court official said on Friday.
Ginsburg, a liberal jurist who will turn 86 in March, took part in the private conference among the nine justices on the court to discuss cases. She had previously been working from home and participating and voting in cases since her December surgery by reading argument transcripts and case briefs.
Friday's conference proved highly significant, with the justices agreeing to decide the fate of a bid by President Donald Trump's administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, which opponents say will scare immigrant communities from participating, leading to an undercount.
While Ginsburg was expected to attend the next round of oral arguments beginning next Tuesday, court officials could not confirm she would be on the bench.
Ginsburg, who joined the court in 1993, underwent a surgical procedure called a pulmonary lobectomy on Dec. 21 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York to remove two cancerous nodules in her left lung. She was released from the hospital on Dec. 25.
Last month, the court said Ginsburg's recovery was on track and that there was no evidence of remaining disease.
Ginsburg missed oral arguments in January for the first time in her lengthy career on the court, fuelling speculation about her ability to continue in the job. As the oldest justice, she is closely watched for any signs of deteriorating health.
Ginsburg, appointed in 1993 by Democratic President Bill Clinton, broke three ribs in a fall in November. The nodules were found as part of the tests the justice underwent after that fall.
She has had other health issues in the past. Ginsburg was treated in 1999 for colon cancer and again in 2009 for pancreatic cancer. In 2014, doctors placed a stent in her right coronary artery to improve blood flow.
Though she has been working from home, Ginsburg on Feb. 4 attended a concert in Washington titled "Notorious RBG in Song." She is viewed as something of a cult figure by U.S. liberals, known by that nickname after the late rapper Notorious BIG.
If Ginsburg, one of the court's four liberal justices, were unable to continue serving, Trump could replace her with a conservative, further shifting the court to the right. Trump has added two justices since becoming president in January 2017, cementing its 5-4 conservative majority.
(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Will Dunham)
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Updated Date: Feb 16, 2019 02:06:23 IST