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U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Antonin Scalia at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on April 17, 2014. (Photo: Levan Ramishvilli.)

Chiaravalloti on Ginsburg and Scalia

By Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti, September 19 2020 8:38 pm


Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg deserves every accolade bestowed on her.  I am an unabashed admirer.  However, there is one recurring complement that gnaws at me – her “unlikely” friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia.  The fact that we are surprised that these two titans of the law were great friends says more about us then them.

There was a time in America – can’t be too long ago because I can remember it – where friendship transcended political beliefs. There was a time when friends (and family members) could disagree vehemently on policies and beliefs but still express love and respect for each other.

Scalia and Ginsberg were brilliant. They were colleagues in the Appellate division and on the Supreme Court.  I imagine that one of the things that brought them together – besides their love of opera – was a genuine appreciation of the others abilities.  They also saw each other not just as leaders of opposing legal theories, but as dedicated individuals.  They were committed to their family, faith, and core values – even if many of their beliefs were polar opposite.

Today, we are told every issue is a zero-sum game – that the future of democracy and/or capitalism is at stake with each election. And yes, I agree our constitution and systems are under tremendous strain. And yes, I agreed with Ginsberg a lot more than I agreed with Scalia. BUT today their friendship should serve as an example. Their ability to argue intellectually should be emulated and the norm, not unique.

I know I write this during the 2020 election cycle.  I feel that I write it at the risk of losing some Democratic friends. (I have already lost a lot of my Trump-loving friends). But let’s stop asking why Scalia and Ginsberg were great friends and let’s reflect on why we can no longer have dinner at a friend’s home because of the Trump flag outside or Biden lawn sign.

Nicholas Chiaravalloti is the Majority Whip of the New Jersey State Assembly.

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