On this historic Monday when Neil Gorsuch was sworn in as the 113th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg taught the other two branches of government a thing or two about civility. Allegheny College (my alma mater) awarded Ginsburg and the late Antonin Scalia with its sixth annual Prize for Civility in Public Life at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
While introducing Ginsburg, Allegheny College President James H. Mullen, Jr. noted that Ginsburg and Scalia may have disagreed ideologically, but they shared a love of the opera and even rode an elephant together. (It's true). Through it all, they "never questioned each other's character."
Ginsburg could not agree more and when she took the podium she spoke of her "fondness" for her old friend.
She's been friendly with many of her fellow justices, but she had a "special fondness" for Scalia that cannot be copied. He had lines, she said, that "could ease tense moments" in court and make even "the most sober jurist laugh." His "get over it" remark, for instance.
Ginsburg compared her friendship with Scalia to the hyper partisan legislative branch that fought over Gorsuch's confirmation these past few months. Her own hearing, she recalled, had been civil. She was confirmed by a vote of 96-3 in 1993, while Scalia was confirmed unanimously in 1986. She was hopeful that legislators, like last year's civility prize winners Joe Biden and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), could one day find common ground again.
"Let's hope members of Congress and others of good will will lead on restoring harmonious work ways," she said.
Scalia's family members, including his widow Maureen and son Eugene, accepted his civility award on his behalf.
Read more about Allegheny's civility prize and former recipients here.