Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg missed her first oral arguments in more than 25 years on the bench this week as she recovers from a Dec. 21 operation that removed about half of her left lung, including two cancerous growths.
Ginsburg's absence from the bench surprised court watchers, who have seen her quickly bounce back from past ailments, including two previous bouts with cancer.
But it did not surprise cancer surgeons, who say that based on what is known publicly, the 85-year-old's recovery appears to be proceeding normally.
Top doctors with experience performing pulmonary lobectomies expect Ginsburg to be back on the bench in less than six weeks, with more than enough time to return for the court's February sitting.
"She's not even three weeks out. She's barely two weeks out," said Raja Flores, the chief of the division of thoracic surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. "I think a lot of people are getting scared because they are concerned about the balance of the court, but I'm confident she's not going anywhere. She's going to be back on the court," Flores said.
The nine-member court is currently divided 5-4 between Republican and Democratic appointees. Ginsburg's health has prompted concern from liberals and among her legion of fans, who refer to the former American Civil Liberties Union litigator as the "Notorious R.B.G.," after the late rapper and fellow Brooklynite Biggie Smalls, who went by the name "Notorious B.I.G."
Democrats fret that Ginsburg's retirement from the court would allow President Donald Trump to appoint her replacement, further solidifying the court's conservative majority. The president has wished Ginsburg a speedy recovery.
The Supreme Court did not respond to a request for comment for this article. It has provided no guidance on when Ginsburg may return.