Opposites attract: A look inside the unlikely friendship of Scalia and Ginsburg

At a time when right and left rarely intersect, Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg proved that people can disagree, and yet still remain friends.

They were in many ways complete opposites: the rough and tumble Scalia who cut his teeth in the Nixon Administration, and the soft-spoken Ginsburg who started her career arguing for women's rights.

But they had a deep and affectionate friendship. Justice Ginsburg has a fabulous picture in her office of the two of them -- they are riding an elephant on a trip to India.

ruth-scalia.png
Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg riding and elephant in India

They both loved the opera, they've even dressed in costume.

And they would do things with their spouses, too. They all would spend New Year's Eve together and have regular dinners.

Scalia's death hits Supreme Court at pivotal time

Their friendship goes back to their days serving on the federal appeals court in Washington, and it was always wonderful to hear them talk about their relationship.

"I was listening to him and disagreeing with a good part of what he said, but thought he said it in an absolutely captivating way," Ginsburg remembered.

"We agree on a whole lot of stuff, Ruth is only bad really on the knee-jerk stuff," Scalia laughed.

But on those divisive, controversial cases they always were apart. They had a mutual respect, but they didn't compromise.

In her statement on Sunday, Justice Ginsburg said his critiques -- and Scalia could have some doozies -- made her better.

Will Justice Scalia's seat be filled this year?

"Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots. The "applesauce" and "argle bargle," and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion," she said.

Within hours of Scalia's death, the partisan divide in Washington went into overdrive. But their relationship proved you could be deeply divided and still be civil.

Ginsburg put it best when she said: "...we were best buddies...It was my great good fortune to have known him as working colleague and treasured friend."

  • Jan Crawford
    Jan Crawford On Twitter» On Facebook»

    Jan Crawford is CBS News Chief Political and Legal Correspondent. She is from "Crossroads," Alabama.