Watch CBS News

Antonin Scalia's son on his father's "odd couple" friendship with Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Scalia's son on his father's friendship with RBG
Antonin Scalia's son on his father's "odd couple" friendship with RBG 07:59

Late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's famously close friendship with fellow late Justice Antonin Scalia seems, at first glance, an unlikely pairing. The judges, one liberal and one conservative, were almost never on the same side for a decision and neither shied away from voicing their opinions — yet their families were known to spend every New Years holiday together.

"I think we were all aware that it publicly seemed like an odd couple, but you know, when they were together, it never felt like that," Scalia's son Chris recounted to CBSN's Lana Zak one day after Ginsburg's death. "They obviously held their views very strongly but they didn't let those very different views undermine their very deep friendship."

Ginsburg, widely considered a feminist and cultural icon due to her years fighting for women's rights and her vocal dissents later in her tenure on the Supreme Court, died Friday after complications linked to pancreatic cancer. 

Four years earlier, she spoke at Scalia's funeral. Scalia was known as a conservative lion on the court, and his seat was later filled by Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Ginsburg Discuss First Amendment At Forum
Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the National Press Club in Washington on April 17, 2014. Alex Wong / Getty Images

According to Chris Scalia, his father's friendship with Ginsburg goes back to the 1980s, when they both served on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Aside from sharing a love of opera, Scalia said the two "liked nice wine" and were born in New York "around the same time."

"Different boroughs a few years apart, but I think they were kind of familiar types to each other, and their spouses were also good friends," he said.

Scalia called Ginsburg's late husband Marty Ginsburg a "good cook" and said his own father was a "good eater" — something he said was "another bond they shared."

He said "they made each other laugh" — and the pair's bond also occasionally extended to the courtroom.

"She said at one point that when they were judges together, initially on the appeals court, they sat next to each other and my dad would whisper jokes to her during arguments," Scalia recounted. "She would have to pinch herself to keep from laughing."

One "moving" anecdote in particular, Scalia said, came when one of his father's former clerks, Judge Jeffrey Sutton, visited him shortly before the justice's death, on Ginsburg's birthday. 

Antonin Scalia had purchased two dozen roses "for his friend Ruth," and told Sutton he would have to bring them to her. 

"Judge Sutton started teasing my dad…'When was the last time she sided with you in an important 5-4 decision?' Just kind of poking fun," he said. "My dad said something, I think, pretty poignant. He said some things are more important than votes."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.