Associated Press

ANN ARBOR (AP) – The oldest justice on the U.S. Supreme Court gave no hint of retirement Friday and said her philosophy of the Constitution is “let it grow.”

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“As long as I can do the job full steam, I will stay in it,” Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in response to a question about lifetime tenure for federal judges. “But when I begin to slip, as inevitably I will, when that happens, that will be the time to go.”

Ginsburg, who turns 82 in March, spoke to more than 3,000 people at the University of Michigan as part of a national series of lectures in the field of human values. She shared the stage with two of her former law clerks who asked questions about career choices, judicial philosophy and the impact of her written opinions after more than 20 years on the Supreme Court.

Ginsburg, who had a stent implanted to clear a blocked artery in November, even plugged an opera written by a young lawyer about her and conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, a longtime friend but ideological opposite.

“The great thing about our Constitution, like our society – it can evolve. Let it grow, let it grow,” Ginsburg said to loud applause.

She said she’s guided by the opening words of the Constitution: “We the people.” Ginsburg gave an example of how the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel punishment has changed over the centuries.

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“We don’t allow 20 lashes. … Cruel and unusual punishment means something different today than it had originally,” she said.

Ginsburg said she would like to see the 2010 decision known as Citizens United eventually overturned. She was on the losing side of a 5-4 opinion that allows corporations, unions and other groups to spend ad money for or against a candidate without government regulation.

“When the people are disgusted with this … the pendulum will swing the other way,” Ginsburg said.

She said she doesn’t see a direct role for the courts in fixing economic inequality.

“The court doesn’t have the power of the purse,” Ginsburg said.

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