The justices on the bench of the highest court in the land don’t always agree — but that doesn’t mean they can’t be friends. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the late Antonin Scalia are a pinnacle example of this. As Ginsburg once put it, they were “best buddies" before Scalia's death. Eugene Scalia — Scalia’s son — says his dad’s friendship with Ginsburg can be a lesson to everyone.
In an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow and Jeffrey Toobin in an episode of the media outlet’s podcast series RBG: Beyond Notorious, Eugene Scalia spoke about his father’s decades-long friendship with Ginsburg. "Whenever you have two such important, accomplished people who have a rich friendship like that, there's something to be learned from it," Eugene Scalia said. He noted to CNN that while there’s quite a bit of in-fighting between parties in the other branches of government, the Supreme Court keeps it cordial. They may write the occasional scathing dissent, but otherwise, they’re friends.
As the eldest Scalia son put it:
Their ability to engage on ideas and yet respect one another's abilities and maintain a friendship is an instructive lesson. And I think they would both heartily agree that we want to have people on two sides of an issue to explain what the right answer is.
As the primaries approach and things heat up when it comes to the latest Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, this reminder probably couldn't come at a more relevant time. The sentiment can be extrapolated to all kinds of relationships, from your family dinners to Congress.
Ginsburg herself emphasized the importance of looking past differences in ideologies after Scalia died at the age of 79 in 2016. She noted that although they “disagreed now and then” they were “best buddies,” often bonding over a love of the opera and “reverence for the Constitution,” according to Time.
Not only did the two justices love the opera — it loved them back. According to the Huffington Post, their disagreements about the law were amplified in an opera called Scalia/Ginsburg by composer and lawyer Derrick Wang.
After Scalia’s death, Ginsburg referenced the opera in a statement about her late friend and fellow justice. “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,” she wrote.
This was their relationship to a tee. CNN reported that the justices shared a traditional New Year's Eve dinner every year and took international trips together.
"It was heartening to me to see my father with a colleague he obviously had so much fun being around and speaking with," Eugene Scalia told CNN.
Now Scalia’s son wants Washington — and the rest of the world, for that matter — to keep his father’s unlikely friendship in mind. Just because you don’t agree, doesn’t mean you can't talk it out and get along.