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Ruth Bader Ginsburg back working and "cracking jokes" after breaking ribs, nephew says

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during a talk at Stanford University on February 6, 2017 

CBS San Francisco

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is "up and working" in the hospital, her nephew said Thursday night, a day after the 85-five-year-old fractured three of her ribs in a fall. Speaking at the premiere of a film about Ginsberg, Daniel Stiepleman said the justice was in good spirits.

"The last I heard she was up and working, of course, because what else would she be doing, and cracking jokes," Stiepleman said, according to Reuters.  "I can't promise they were good jokes but they were jokes."

The court's oldest justice fell Wednesday evening, the court said. She called Supreme Court police to take her to George Washington University Hospital in Washington early Thursday after experiencing discomfort overnight, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

She was admitted to the hospital for treatment and observation after tests showed she fractured three ribs.

In her absence, the court went ahead Thursday with a courtroom ceremony welcoming new Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who joined the court last month. President Donald Trump and new acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker were on hand.

Ginsburg has had a series of health problems. She broke two ribs in a fall in 2012. She has had two prior bouts with cancer and had a stent implanted to open a blocked artery in 2014. She also was hospitalized after a bad reaction to medicine in 2009.

But she has never missed Supreme Court arguments. The court won't hear arguments again until Nov. 26.

This type of injury tends to be painful because the ribs move with each breath, said CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook, who is not involved in Ginsburg's treatment. "Generally, it just really hurts," he said, but the injury "should get better, if there are no complications." One risk is that shallow breathing caused by pain can lead to the lungs not expanding to a normal extent, which can lead to pneumonia, LaPook said.

Appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, Ginsburg rebuffed suggestions from some liberals that she should step down in the first two years of President Barack Obama's second term, when Democrats also controlled the Senate and would have been likely to confirm her successor.

She already has hired clerks for the term that extends into 2020, indicating she has no plans to retire.

Ginsburg leads the court's liberal wing.