Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Sunday that she and her unlikely friend Justice Antonin Scalia "disagreed now and then" but even so, "we were best buddies."
Scalia was found dead Saturday at the age of 79. He and Ginsburg differed greatly in ideologies, but bonded over a shared love of the opera and "our reverence for the Constitution and the institution we serve," Ginsburg said.
The justice added that her pal made her better at her job.
"From our years together at the D.C. Circuit, we were best buddies," she wrote. "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."
While she may have disagreed with him, Ginsburg acknowledged that Scalia "was eminently quotable, his pungent opinions so clearly stated that his words never slipped from the reader’s grasp."
In an colorful statement that began like a theater review, Ginsburg wrote:
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.
Scalia's dedication to the Court and friendship was also remembered by other justices Sunday.
"In every case, he gave it his all to get the broad principles and the small details right," said Justice Clarence Thomas in a statement. "It is hard to imagine the Court without my friend. I will miss him beyond all measure."
Justice Stephen Breyer called Scalia "a legal titan."
"He shared with us, his colleagues, his enthusiasms, his humor, his mental agility, his seriousness of purpose," Breyer said. "We benefited greatly."
Scalia "left an indelible mark on our history," said Justice Sonia Sotomayor. "I will miss him and the dimming of his special light is a great loss for me."
"He was a towering figure who will be remembered as one of the most important figures in the history of the Supreme Court and a scholar who deeply influenced our legal culture," echoed Justice Samuel Alito.
"His views on interpreting texts have changed the way all of us think and talk about the law," said Justice Elena Kagan. On a personal note, " I will always remember, and greatly miss, his warmth, charm, and generosity," she said.
Justice Anthony Kennedy said Scalia's legacy would be lasting. "In years to come any history of the Supreme Court will, and must, recount the wisdom, scholarship, and technical brilliance that Justice Scalia brought to the Court," he said.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. on Saturday had said Scalia's passing was "a great loss."
"He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues," Roberts said.
Scalia's former colleagues, the retired justices Sandra Day O'Connor and John Paul Stevens also praised the late justice.
"His gifts of wisdom, wit, and wordsmithing were unparalleled," said O'Connor.
"Nino Scalia was a good friend, a brilliant man with an incomparable sense of humor, and as articulate as any Justice who ever served on the Court," Stevens said. "We will all miss him."