Scalia: No ‘Falling Out’ With Roberts, Ginsberg ‘Best Buddy’

Antonin Scalia says Supreme Court justices have a collegial relationship and make decisions based on legal philosophy, not politics.

Antonin Scalia says Supreme Court justices have a collegial relationship and make decisions based on legal philosophy, not politics.

AP’s Jesse Holland (“Scalia says no ‘falling out’ with Roberts“):

Justice Antonin Scalia said Wednesday he hasn’t had a “falling out” with Chief Justice John Roberts over the Supreme Court’s landmark 5-4 decision validating much of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
In an interview on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight,” the justice said despite reports that he and Roberts had clashed, there is not a personal feud going on between the court’s two leading conservatives. ”There are clashes on legal questions but not personally,” Scalia said of the court.

The Supreme Court earlier this month upheld much of Obama’s signature health care law, with Roberts siding with the court’s liberals to uphold the hotly debated core requirement that nearly every American have health insurance. The decision allowed the law to go forward with its aim of covering more than 30 million uninsured Americans. Since then, Roberts has been the focus of derision from some of the nation’s leading conservatives, and there have been reports of fractures in the relationships on the court’s conservative wing, of which Roberts and Scalia are members.

“No, I haven’t had a falling out with Justice Roberts,” Scalia said, when asked about a purported clash between him and Roberts.

“Loud words exchanged, slamming of doors?” prompted Morgan.
“No, no, nothing like that,” said Scalia, who noted that he was out of the country for most of the criticism of Roberts.

Scalia also emphasized “the court is not at all a political institution” and said he believed “not a single one” of his Supreme Court colleagues considers politics when making decisions at the court. ”I don’t think any of my colleagues on any cases vote the way they do for political reasons,” he said. “They vote the way they do because they have their own judicial philosophy.”

Atlantic Wire‘s Connor Simpson (“Everything Is Okay Between Antonin Scalia and John Roberts“) picks out another interesting tidbit from the exchange:

 Scalia did say that his “best buddy” on the court is and always has been Ruth Bader Ginsberg, even though they don’t agree on anything. (It’s true. Scalia agreed with Ginsberg the least of any of the Supreme Court Judges over the last year according to a Washington Post chart.)

Indeed, Scalia and Ginsberg have been good friends since well before they were on the Court together, sharing a love of opera, classical music, and a similar sense of humor. They’re also roughly the same age, have a New York sensibility, and have grown children roughly the same age.

While I think Scalia goes too far in saying that the Justices don’t consider partisan politics at all—they certainly seem to do so in timing their retirement, if nothing else—his description of the professional relationship on the Court strikes me as more than plausible. It’s pretty much the same as one finds in any intellectual community, whether it be a college faculty or a think tank staff. Relationships are formed on the basis of all manner of things, with partisan political views rather low on the list.

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FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Perhaps the most amusing aspect of the Scalia-Ginsburg relationship was this picture taken on a 1994 trip to India with the Justices and their spouses:

    Scalia and Ginsburg riding an elephant.

  2. MBunge says:

    “Relationships are formed on the basis of all manner of things, with partisan political views rather low on the list.”

    Which can be both good and bad. I wonder how much fun Ginsberg will have with her “best buddy” Scalia if another conservative Justice or two gets appointed and they all vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. There is a point where personal relationships have to take a back seat to more important considerations.

    Mike

  3. PJ says:

    Considering his behavior lately, I guess Scalia has had time to calm down.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @MBunge: They’re grown-ups. She’s well aware of his view on both the morality of abortion and the legal merits of Roe and its successors.

  5. al-Ameda says:

    @James Joyner:
    First off, good article. I like the back stories of the Supreme Court.

    It’s pretty much the same as one finds in any intellectual community, whether it be a college faculty or a think tank staff. Relationships are formed on the basis of all manner of things, with partisan political views rather low on the list.

    I agree with that observation.

    I think what’s missing in our society today is that many of us do not associate very much with people who have a very different political ideology and worldview from our own. Therefore to many people it is cognitive dissonance to believe that Ginsburg and Scalia could be good friends. It need not be that way at all.

    I grew up in the SF Bay Area in a very conservative law enforcement family and most of our family friends were police and firemen, who were also working class conservatives. I was and am the token liberal but I’m used to hearing the conservative viewpoint and I’m not offended or thin-skinned about it. I have conservative friends too.

  6. MBunge says:

    @James Joyner: “They’re grown-ups.”

    And if Scalia and a few more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court decide to strike down the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or 1968? How about the Clean Water Act? The Clean Air Act? How about overturning Miranda? Denying the government’s right to set workplace safety regulations? Allowing the federal prohibition of birth control?

    Would Ginsberg be “best buddies” with a neo-Nazi? Probably not, no matter how charming a lunchmate he might be. There is nothing grown up or mature or sophisticated or wise about totally ignoring political beliefs when it comes to personal relationships.

    Mike

  7. Wayne says:

    Go to an embassy or the U.N. and you will find many people who are “friendly” towards each other especially socially. Their remarks and actions when out of sight are often very different.

    Yes, the justices are probably friendly toward each other but that doesn’t mean they don’t have tension and dislike for each other under the surface. If there were conflicts and even if they were visible, it is unlikely that any of the justices would claim it was anything but friendly.

  8. James Joyner says:

    @MBunge: There’s a chasm between differing interpretations of US law and being a neo-Nazi.

    @Wayne: Scalia and Ginsberg are actual friends, though, not just friendly at work. In the sense that the Scalias and Ginsbergs hang out together routinely outside of work and have for years and years.

  9. MBunge says:

    @James Joyner: “There’s a chasm between differing interpretations of US law and being a neo-Nazi.”

    I’m sorry, but since when it is “grown up” to avoid the issue? We’re not talking about “differing interpretations of US law”. We’re talking about a political movement, which Scalia is an an all but publicly professed member of, that wants to essentially unmake anywhere from 50 to 100 years or more of the established legal order. In a Scalia-majority America, what sort of rights will women have? African-Americans? Gays? Workers? Anyone who runs up against entrenched political or economic authority?

    What if it wasn’t Scalia? What if Ginsberg were great friends with loony conspiracy monger Glenn Beck? Birther Donald Trump? Alan “Democrats are Communists” West? This presumption that “grown ups” don’t let politics poison their personal relationships rests on the assumption that all “grown up” have relatively reasonable political views. Looking at America today, does that seem like a safe assumption?

    Mike

  10. Wayne says:

    @James
    The headline has Roberts in it. Ginsberg relationship with Scalia has little to do with that. One point of clarification, isn’t Ginsberg spelled Ginsburg or are we talking about different people. Anyway, yes people with different philosophy can be friends. However, that doesn’t mean there is never fallout between friends or with other people likeminded or not.

    Is Scalia telling the truth, probably in a sense but probably not in other ways. We simply don’t know at this point and unlikely ever will. One would expect a Supreme Court Justice to act diplomatically. Therefore, I’m saying his statements should be taken with a grain of salt. Does anyone seriously believe he would state otherwise if there was fallout from the decision? If his statement didn’t fit many people’s agenda here, I suspect they would look at it a little more skeptical than they are.

    Personally, their relationship makes no difference to me. Faulty analyses do bug me.

  11. Drew says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    As Don Imus would say, you can’t make this shit up.

  12. jan says:

    “Scalia and Ginsberg are actual friends, though, not just friendly at work. In the sense that the Scalias and Ginsbergs hang out together routinely outside of work and have for years and years. “

    That has been a known fact for years. It might be difficult for some here to understand, that people can agree to disagree, while still respecting the other’s intelligence and sensibilities without the necessity of impugning them in order to satisfy their own egotistical sense of ‘being right.’.

  13. @jan:

    Well it certainly is an oddity in Washington where everything is now incredibly polarized. Gone are the days when Republicans and Democratic Members of Congress could be seen sharing drinks together and making deals at D.C.’s bars.

    I will honestly say that I think part of the reason for the difference on the Court is two-fold. First, it’s a very small work environment. There are 9 Justices, their law clerks, and the support staff. I’ve worked in small to medium sized offices most of my professional life, and you have to get along with the people you work with in that kind of environment. Second, it’s always been the case in the legal field that people get along even though their likely to work on opposite sides of a case many times in their careers. You learn pretty quickly that it’s just a job and that holding grudges doesn’t help anyone.

  14. jan says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    “You learn pretty quickly that it’s just a job and that holding grudges doesn’t help anyone.”

    That’s a piece of advice/wisdom that would be helpful if applied to all aspects of professional as well as personal lives.

    I’ve been reading Viktor Frankel’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, which is a humbling look into the human spirit, under the worst of circumstances. It reminds one that it’s less the outside burden or travails that effect our reactions to life, than how we process and manage them within ourselves.

    Holding grudges is like holding on to sludge — it’s heavy and totally worthless.

  15. Wayne says:

    @jan Re” It might be difficult for some here to understand, that people can agree to disagree”

    Has anyone here said that so far? The only thing that seems to be in contention here is if there was a “falling out” between any of the Justices following the recent decision. The one relationship of most interest is between Scalia and Roberts.

    “The Scalia and Ginsburg being friends” proves that there was no tension created by the decision between Scalia and Roberts is asinine.

    One more point, it is often easier to forgive or understand someone’s action that you disagree with when his or her philosophy is different from yours than someone who is supposed to have the same philosophy.

  16. george says:

    @MBunge:

    There is nothing grown up or mature or sophisticated or wise about totally ignoring political beliefs when it comes to personal relationships.

    Would you accept that its a sign of humility? I have friends with a pretty wide range of political views, and one part of that is the recognition that I may in fact be wrong in my views and they may be right.

    Or put it this way. I am friends with co-workers with some radically different views on engineering than I have (and since I’m an engineer, their views affect my life via my work much more starkly than their views on politics). Would you say I should be taking into account their views on some engineering issues (cloud computing for instance) in determining whether I should be friends with them?

    The fact is, I don’t know if my political views are correct; I feel some of them deeply, but I don’t confuse feeling deeply about an issue with certainty that my feelings are in fact correct. I’ve been wrong too many times on other issues (quantum mechanics as a grad student for instance) to really believe that suddenly I’m definitive in political matters.