“We are different, we are one.” – A Lesson in Discourse from the Passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

With the passing of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia this weekend, many mourned the loss of a sharp legal mind that had an immense impact on the United States' most influential court during the past three decades. Others speculated on the political battle a Supreme Court nomination would bring in the coming election year.

However, what was most striking to me were comments from one of Justice Scalia's colleagues on the bench who is considered his polar opposite on ideological views: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I found Justice Ginsburg's comments particularly touching especially where she characterized her relationship with Scalia as a duet titled: “We are different, we are one.”  Please see Justice Ginsburg’s entire statement below.

Their relationship shows despite the vitriol and adversarial language that has permeated American political discourse for a number of years, it is indeed possible to remain respectful and even friendly with those with whom we disagree.

I hope this kind of discourse can make a comeback on a larger scale. I thank Justice Scalia for his years of service to the court and his country. May he rest in peace.

Statement From Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 

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. 


Statements From All Supreme Court Justices on the Death of Justice Antonin Scalia 

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