His eight colleagues on the Supreme Court reveal their affection and admiration for Antonin Scalia in the statements they released within 48 hours of the news of his death.
The most poignant, perhaps, is that of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, arguably the high court’s most liberal justice, who emphasizes that she and “Nino” Scalia, arguably the most conservative, were “best buddies.”
“He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh,” Ginsburg said in her formal statement, adding:
The press referred to his ‘energetic fervor,’ ‘astringent intellect,’ ‘peppery prose,’ ‘acumen,’ and ‘affability,’ all apt descriptions. He was eminently quotable, his pungent opinions so clearly stated that his words never slipped from the reader’s grasp.
Here are excerpts from what his fellow justices had to say about Scalia, who died in his sleep Saturday. (The complete text of each may be found at SCOTUSblog.)
- Samuel Alito: “He was a towering figure who will be remembered as one of the most important figures in the history of the Supreme Court and a scholar who deeply influenced our legal culture. His intellect, learning, wit, and memorable writing will be sorely missed.”
- Stephen G. Breyer: “Nino Scalia was a legal titan. He used his great energy, fine mind, and stylistic genius to further the rule of law as he saw it. He was a man of integrity and wit. … He loved his family. He also loved ideas, music, and the out of doors. He shared with us, his colleagues, his enthusiasms, his humor, his mental agility, his seriousness of purpose.”
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “From our years together at the D.C. Circuit, we were best buddies. We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the [Supreme] 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. … It was my great good fortune to have known him as working colleague and treasured friend.”
- Elena Kagan: “His views on interpreting texts have changed the way all of us think and talk about the law. I admired Nino for his brilliance and erudition, his dedication and energy, and his peerless writing. And I treasured Nino’s friendship: I will always remember, and greatly miss, his warmth, charm, and generosity.”
- Anthony Kennedy: “His insistence on demanding standards shaped the work of the court in its private discussions, its oral arguments, and its written opinions. … [The] foundations of Justice Scalia’s jurisprudence, the driving force in all his work, and his powerful personality were shaped by an unyielding commitment to the Constitution of the United States and to the highest ethical and moral standards.”
- John G. Roberts Jr., chief justice: “He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues. His passing is a great loss to the court and the country he so loyally served.”
- Sonia Sotomayor: “My colleague Nino Scalia was devoted to his family, friends, our court, and our country. He left an indelible mark on our history. I will miss him and the dimming of his special light is a great loss for me.”
- Clarence Thomas: “Justice Scalia was a good man; a wonderful husband who loved his wife and his family; a man of strong faith; a towering intellect; a legal giant; and a dear, dear friend. In every case, he gave it his all to get the broad principles and the small details right. … It is hard to imagine the court without my friend. I will miss him beyond all measure.”
Note: Statements by three of Scalia’s former colleagues on the court—Sandra Day O’Connor, John Paul Stevens, and David H. Souter—also may be found at SCOTUSblog.