Speed Reads

Frenemies

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would pinch herself in court to stop from laughing at Antonin Scalia

There are many stories of unexpected friendships, but few raised eyebrows quite like the goodwill between polar opposite Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The pair disagreed on plenty — the particulars of gender equality and same-sex marriage perhaps most famously — but bonded over a deep love of opera and shared roots in the outer boroughs of New York City.

Although Scalia passed away over the weekend at the age of 79, both he and Ginsburg have spoken fondly of their unlikely friendship with a healthy sense of humor:

"If you can't disagree ardently with your colleagues about some issues of law and yet personally still be friends, get another job, for Pete's sake," is how Scalia once described their lifetime appointments. "As annoyed as you might be about his zinging dissent, he's so utterly charming, so amusing, so sometimes outrageous, you can’t help but say, 'I'm glad that he's my friend or he's my colleague,'" Ginsburg said. Sometimes, she said, she had to pinch herself to not laugh in the courtroom when Scalia said something audacious.

Even in [a Virginia Military Institute case concerning the end of women's exclusion], Ginsburg was grateful for how Scalia disagreed: giving her a copy of his dissent as soon as possible, so she could properly respond. "He absolutely ruined my weekend, but my opinion is ever so much better because of his stinging dissent," she said. Whether or not it was how Scalia saw it, for Ginsburg their public friendship also made a statement about the court as an institution: that it was strengthened by respectful debate, that it could work no matter how polarized its members were. [The Washington Post]

"We were best buddies," Ginsburg explained simply in her statement on Scalia's death. Read more about the unlikely friendship in The Washington Post.