Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg attends oral argument after cancer bout
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg attends the lunch session of The Women's Conference in Long Beach, California in this in an Oct. 26, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/Files

U.S. Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Tuesday made her first appearance on the bench since lung cancer surgery in December as she attended an oral argument in a patent case.

Ginsburg, a liberal jurist who will turn 86 in March, was steady on her feet as she walked unassisted up the steps leading to the bench before sitting for the scheduled one-hour argument in a case involving the U.S. Postal Service.

Wearing one of her signature decorative collars, she stood with the other eight justices as the court marshal called the court to order, before taking her usual seat to the right of Chief Justice John Roberts.

Ginsburg, who joined the court in 1993, underwent a surgical procedure called a pulmonary lobectomy on Dec. 21 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York to remove two cancerous nodules in her left lung. She was released from the hospital on Dec. 25.

She returned to the court on Friday for the first time since the surgery to take part in the nine justices’ private conference. 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, fueling speculation about her ability to continue in the job. As the oldest justice, she is closely watched for any signs of deteriorating health.

She is one of four liberal justices on a court with a 5-4 conservative majority.

Though she worked from home during her absence from the court, Ginsburg attended a Feb. 4 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.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)