Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the loss of Justice Antonin Scalia still weighs heavily on the high court, even if she remembers sometimes wanting to hit him with a baseball bat.
“We sparred and we laughed together but so does everybody on the court,” Sotomayor told the audience at the University of Minnesota. “We get angry with each other. There are moments when you want to take one of them and shake them.”
That feeling of frustration was particularly acute, she said, when working with the late Scalia, one of the most conservative and outspoken justices on bench.
“I've told people there are things he said on the bench when if I had a baseball bat, I might have used it,” Sotomayor said, prompting laughter. “But when you work so intimately with people, you get to know the really personal good side of them.”
The Supreme Court still has just eight justices more than eight months after the death of Scalia, who colorfully clashed with his liberal colleagues on the bench throughout his tenure.
President Barack Obama has nominated a replacement: Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. But Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have vowed to delay a confirmation hearing until the next president is elected.
The vacancy has left the court crippled, unable to set national precedent if they come down evenly split on an issue.
“It's much more difficult for us to do our job if we are not what we are intended to be. A court of nine,” Sotomayor said at Monday's event.
Her words echoed those of one of her more liberal colleagues, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose friendship with Scalia — or Nino, as she referred to him — made them the court’s most famous odd couple.
“I disagreed with most of what he said,” Ginsburg said last year, recalling the first time she had seen Scalia speak. “But I loved the way he said it.”