Eugene Scalia, the eldest of the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s nine children, believes that Washington could learn something from his father and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s famous, decades-long friendship.
“Whenever you have two such important, accomplished people who have a rich friendship like that, there’s something to be learned from it,” Scalia told CNN’s Poppy Harlow and Jeffrey Toobin in the fourth episode of CNN’s new podcast series “RBG: Beyond Notorious” – which was released this week.
“Their ability to engage on ideas and yet respect one another’s abilities and maintain a friendship is an instructive lesson,” Scalia added. “And I think they would both heartily agree that we want to have people on two sides of an issue to explain what the right answer is.”
The younger Scalia, a prominent Washington lawyer who served in President George W. Bush’s administration, noted that the Supreme Court is known for its collegiality, as compared to other branches of government where partisan bickering has become the standard.
His father and Ginsburg first encountered one another in academic circles in the 1970s. By 1982, they were both serving on the DC Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. By 1993, they were both sitting on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States.
While on the Supreme Court, the justices took turns delivering scathing dissents on one another’s opinions – but off the bench they shared a New Year’s Eve dinner tradition, traveled internationally, and bonded over a mutual love of music, Scalia told Harlow and Toobin.
“It was heartening to me to see my father with a colleague he obviously had so much fun being around and speaking with,” Scalia said.
Scalia described dinner parties at the Ginsburg’s Watergate apartment, where Marty Ginsburg – Justice Ginsburg’s late husband, and a “wonderful cook” – would prepare meat hunted by his late father.
When Justice Scalia died in 2015, Ginsburg spoke at his funeral, calling the high court a “paler place” without him and emphasizing that he was skilled in the art of separating ideological disagreements from his interpersonal relationships.
Scalia also said he believed his father sharpened his own ideas by listening to Ginsburg’s approach on a number of issues.
“My father would seldom shy away from disagreeing, but nor would she,” Scalia said. “If you couldn’t give him a good argument, he might think less of you.”
Ginsburg and Scalia also shared an interest in the law and enjoyed discussing it, he said. They weren’t friends despite their divergent interpretations of the Constitution, Scalia told Toobin and Harlow. “They were friends, in part, because of it,” he said.
CNN’s Jonah Eatman contributed to this report.