Court Battles

Supreme Court Justices remember Scalia

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Justice Clarence Thomas held back tears while remembering his good friend and former colleague, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, at a memorial service Tuesday.

“For this I feel quite inadequate for the task and I find this very difficult,” he said after taking the stage at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. “I was truly blessed to have Nino at the court when I became a member in 1991, and I was blessed many times over almost the 25 years that we served together.” 

After his unexpected death last month, many remembered Scalia for his intellect, jurisprudence and original reading of the Constitution, but Thomas said, “there was so much more to this good man.”

For years, he sat between Scalia and Justice Stephen Breyer and Thomas said he loved listening to the back and forth between the two, “especially the passing of notes and a whispered or muttered commentary.”

Thomas, a conservative justice known for his public silence on the bench, struggled toward the end of his speech, taking a moment before loosely quoting the eulogy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor and author who was killed by Adolph Hitler’s Nazi regime.

“With him, a piece of my own life is carried to the grave,” he said holding back tears. “Yet our eyes are upon thee. We believe in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life ever lasting.”

Justice Ruther Bader Ginsburg also shared her memories of Scalia on Tuesday, recalling the time President Bill Clinton was mulling over his first nomination to the Supreme Court. She said someone asked Scalia if he were stranded on a desert island whom he would prefer as his new colleague, Laurence Tribe or Mario Cuomo?

“Scalia answered quickly and distinctly, ‘Ruth Bader Ginsburg,’” she said. “And within days the president chose me.”

Ginsburg, a member of court’s more liberal wing and Scalia, of the court’s more conservative wing, were known for this unlikely friendship.

“He was once asked how we could be friends given our disagreement on lots of things,” she said. “Scalia answered, ‘I attack ideas I don’t attack people. Some very good people have some very bad ideas. And if you can’t separate the two you’ve got to get another day job.’”

It’s the challenges and the laughter Ginsburg said she’ll miss most, as well as his “pungent, eminently quoted opinions so clearly stated that his words never slipped from the reader’s grasp,” the roses he brought her on her birthdays and the chance to appear with him once more as supernumeraries at the opera.


Tags Antonin Scalia Bill Clinton Clarence Thomas Ruth Bader Ginsburg Supreme Court of the United States
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