Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will hear her first arguments in more than two months on Tuesday, after recovering from cancer surgery

  • Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg returns to the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her first oral arguments since undergoing cancer surgery in December.
  • Her absence from the bench on Jan. 7 marked the first time in her 25 years as a justice that she was not present for arguments.
Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg poses for the official photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on November 30, 2018.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg poses for the official photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on November 30, 2018.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg returned to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to hear her first oral arguments since undergoing cancer surgery in December.

The last oral arguments Ginsburg attended took place more than two months ago, on Dec. 6. Later that month, while the court was on holiday, Ginsburg received a pulmonary lobectomy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. The court said at the time that there was no evidence of remaining disease in the justice's body.

Her absence from the bench on Jan. 7, when the court returned, marked the first time in her 25 years as a justice that she was not present for arguments.

She is now walking more than a mile a day and is working out again with her trainer twice a week, according to NPR.

Ginsburg's health concerns caused a stir among Democrats who feared the political ramifications of a liberal justice departing, and prompted a flurry of conspiracy theories about her death from those affiliated with QAnon, a pro-Trump fringe group.

During the argument session that began at 10 a.m. ET, Ginsburg was the first justice to ask a question, according to a transcript released by the court.

The top court is divided 5-4 among Republican and Democratic appointees. Ginsburg, who will turn 86 next month, is a senior member of the court's liberal wing.

Though she did not appear at the court in person during her recovery, Ginsburg voted on cases, including with the court's majority earlier this month in a decision that prevented a restrictive Louisiana abortion law from going into effect.

On Friday, Ginsburg for the first time since her surgery attended a private conference in person, at which the court decided to take up a case regarding the Trump administration's decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Neither Ginsburg's absence for health reasons nor her continued participation in cases while working from home, was unprecedented for a justice. Her return on Tuesday was largely expected by cancer doctors who said that a six-week recovery is about typical for the type of surgery that Ginsburg received.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist missed dozens of cases during his treatment for thyroid cancer in 2004 and 2005. Rehnquist went on to write majority opinions in four of the cases in which he missed oral arguments, according to a tally from The Heritage Foundation.

On Tuesday, the court heard arguments in a patent case, Return Mail Inc. v. USPS. An audio recording of the argument is expected to be published on the court's website at the end of the week. The only other case the justices will hear this week will be argued on Wednesday.

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