While former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia possessed many gifts, his wit particularly stood out to his good friend and ideological opposite on the court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“He had that rare talent of making even the most sober judge smile,” Ginsburg said Tuesday, Aug. 1, during a discussion with Walter Isaacson at the Aspen Institute that centered on her relationship with Scalia, who died in February 2016.
During panel discussions outside the Supreme Court, Ginsburg said she would have “to pinch myself hard to stop my uncontrollable laughter at his quips.” Then, when the court was in session, Scalia would send her notes that had much the same effect, she said.
Scalia and Ginsburg’s friendship began during Scalia’s days as a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, before he joined her on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., Circuit in 1982, Ginsburg said.
“Our friendship was regarded by some as puzzling,” she said.
However, the annals of U.S. judiciaries are filled with friendships that span the ideological divide, so “there was nothing odd about our friendship,” Ginsburg said.
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Scalia possessed “an uncommon clarity and an inimitable style” when it came to the law, which Ginsburg said made her own opinions stronger and more convincing. In fact, Scalia would sometimes stop by her office and point out a mistake she made in an opinion the court was working on instead of sending the error through established channels, she said.
“He thought it might embarrass me,” Ginsburg said. “He honed in on all the soft spots.”
Even when Scalia penned a scathing dissent…
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