Ginsburg and Scalia: Raising the Bar for Supreme Court Friendship
We’ve never subscribed to the grown-up version of Valentine’s Day; it strikes us as insincere. Instead, we've always preferred the childhood version of the holiday: showering friends with silly sentiments, (e.g. Justin Bieber valentines), and candy.
In that spirit of appreciating friendship -- and because the Supreme Court is away at winter recess -- today we're looking at the most unlikely friends on the Court: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia.
She's a famously liberal champion of the women's liberation movement, whose generic pronouns are always feminine. He's a notoriously conservative founder of the Federalist Society. And yet, they are close friends who share a common love of music, especially opera, reports USA Today.
During her Senate confirmation hearings for the Court, Democrats were worried that their friendship might sway the Clinton-nominated Ginsburg to the right. While that concern was certainly unwarranted, Justices Ginsburg and Scalia do occasionally find themselves on the same side of a decision.
The Supreme Court issues plenty of unanimous opinions -- over 40 percent of the Court's decisions in the terms from 1995 through 2009 were unanimous, according to Daily Writ -- but the cases we find most interesting are those in which Justices Scalia and Ginsburg are the outliers.
Last month, the pair dissented from the Reynolds v. U.S. decision, which held that the Sex Offender Registration Act does not require pre-Act offenders to register before the Attorney General validly specifies that the Act's registration provisions apply to them. Justice Ginsburg joined Justice Scalia's opinion, which would have extended requirements under the Act to pre-Act offenders.
That's not the first time the two have agreed either. Both also dissented to last year's Confrontation Clause case, Michigan v. Bryant.
Justice Scalia offered a scathing criticism of the majority decision to consider statements made to police for the primary purpose of assisting in an ongoing emergency to be nontestimonial, and thus admissible hearsay. Justice Ginsburg wrote a shorter dissent, saying that she agreed with Scalia, and adding a note about the relevance of the dying declaration exception in the context of the Bryant decision.
Supreme Court Justices are known for collegiality, but it's nonetheless refreshing that ideological opposites like Justices Ginsburg and Scalia can be close friends. If only the members of Congress could exhibit the same level of professionalism when considering judicial nominees.
Or anything else.
- Justice Kagan Talks Cameras in the Supreme Court, Collegiality (FindLaw's Supreme Court blog)
- Reynolds v. U.S. (FindLaw's CaseLaw)
- Michigan v. Bryant (FindLaw's CaseLaw)
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