Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a surprisingly touching tribute on the SCOTUS Blog yesterday to her friend and colleague Antonin Scalia. The former Supreme Court Justice died on Saturday during a hunting trip at a Texas ranch.
Below is the statement made by Justice Ginsburg:
‘Toward the end of the opera Scalia/Ginsburg, tenor Scalia and soprano Ginsburg sing a duet: “We are different, we are one,” different in our interpretation of written texts, one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution we serve. From our years together at the D.C. Circuit, we were best buddies. We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation. Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots—the “applesauce” and “argle bargle”—and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion. He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh. The press referred to his “energetic fervor,” “astringent intellect,” “peppery prose,” “acumen,” and “affability,” all apt descriptions. He was eminently quotable, his pungent opinions so clearly stated that his words never slipped from the reader’s grasp.
Justice Scalia once described as the peak of his days on the bench an evening at the Opera Ball when he joined two Washington National Opera tenors at the piano for a medley of songs. He called it the famous Three Tenors performance. He was, indeed, a magnificent performer. It was my great good fortune to have known him as working colleague and treasured friend.’
I made a point on Saturday night to remind our readers that, regardless of how we feel and what we say about Scalia’s political legacy, the former SCOTUS justice was still a man with friends and loved ones. Some of those friends and loved ones, Justice Ginsberg particularly, were not any less fond of his political choices than we are. But they were still friends, and friends mourn and grieve for their friends after they die, regardless of their political affiliations.
While I personally question the “brilliance” of former Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinions and his “peppery prose”, much of my opinion on this matter might have more to do with the degree that I disagreed with the Justice’s conclusions. I often got the feeling that Scalia’s writings, though certainly advanced and the mark of an intelligent person, were also a means to obfuscate some enormously flawed and hypocritical assumptions about what was best for our country; strong words that were designed to resist social progress by any means necessary. He often attempted to intellectualize bigoted and disgusting assumptions about global citizens, whom he essentially regarded as subhuman. For this I have very little room to forgive him as a public figure.
As Justice Ginsburg mentioned in her tribute however, perhaps there were occasions when Scalia’s dissenting opinions helped strengthen her own. Perhaps, as a man, Scalia did have a talent for challenging those who disagreed with him, forcing them to “make their case” even better than they normally would had he said nothing at all. In this case, my deepest condolences go out to Ruth Bader Ginsberg for losing her very good friend this weekend. It’s never easy to lose somebody you were close to, no matter who they were.