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We Were Best Buddies': Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Tribute to Antonin Scalia Highlights the Ideologically Opposed Pair's Deep Friendship


"It was my great good fortune to have known him as working colleague and treasured friend."

Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 78, said she won't be leaving the nation's highest court "anytime soon." (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg penned a moving tribute Sunday to her "best buddy," the late Justice Antonin Scalia, one day after he died unexpectedly on a Texas ranch at the age of 79.

In her statement, Ginsburg, 82, paid homage to the conservative judge with whom she shared a surprising friendship that was built upon mutual respect. Even though Ginsburg admitted that the two of them often disagreed and took different sides during court cases, she affirmed that their friendship transcended their opposing ideologies and allowed them to look past their differences and learn from one another.

"From our years together at the D.C. Circuit, we were best buddies," Ginsburg wrote, according to NBC. "We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation. Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots — the 'applesauce' and 'argle bargle'— and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion. He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh."

Ginsburg fondly referred to Scalia as someone who "was eminently quotable" with "pungent opinions so clearly stated that his words never slipped from the reader's grasp," NBC noted.

For his part, Scalia had also called Ginsburg his "best buddy" on the bench, and he had once joked during an appearance with Ginsburg, "Why don't you call us the odd couple?" according to CNN.

"What's not to like?" Scalia had said at the event hosted by the Smithsonian Associates. "Except her views on the law, of course."

"I love him, but sometimes I'd like to strangle him," Ginsburg once said, CNN noted.

Scalia and Ginsburg were known to vacation together with their families, including a trip to Europe where Scalia watched as Ginsburg went parasailing and expressed his concern that she would just float away, CNN noted. And in her chambers, Ginsburg displays a picture of the two justices riding an elephant in India together — with Scalia in front and Ginsburg behind him — claiming that she only sat behind him in order to distribute their weight more evenly on the elephant's back. The two friends also spent many New Year's Eves together celebrating with their spouses.

In her statement, Ginsburg also referred to an opera based upon the two's unusual friendship that debuted last spring.

"Toward the end of the opera Scalia/Ginsburg, tenor Scalia and soprano Ginsburg sing a duet: 'We are different, we are one,' different in our interpretation of written texts, one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution we serve," Ginsburg wrote. "It was my great good fortune to have known him as working colleague and treasured friend."

Follow Kathryn Blackhurst (@kablackhurst) on Twitter

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