Scalia and Ginsburg talk about longtime friendship at Lisner

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Sophie Kaplan.

Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg came to Lisner Auditorium on Thursday to talk about their long friendship and differing opinions on court decisions.

Nina Totenberg, NPR’s legal affairs correspondent, moderated the conversation sponsored by the Smithsonian Associates to a sold-out audience.

Didn’t score tickets? Here are some highlights from their hour-and-a-half discussion.

1. A long-term friendship

Ginsburg and Scalia said they’ve been close friends since they served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit together over 30 years ago.

“She’s a nice person, what’s not to like?” Scalia said. “But her views about the law.”

Ginsburg said her favorite moment with Scalia was when they rode on an elephant together.

“Your feminist friends made fun of me for riding behind you on the elephant,” Scalia said.

“It had something to do with weight distribution,” Ginsburg said.

2. United States v. Virginia

Ginsburg and Scalia were on opposite sides when it came to a high-profile Supreme Court case on the Virginia Military Institute, which originally would not allow women to enroll.

Scalia said allowing women into the school would ruin a long-standing tradition at the military institute.

Ginsburg disagreed, saying the institute for women didn’t have facilities of the same quality.

“Faculty were more supportive of the admission of women, and why? Because it would upgrade their applicant pool,” she said.

3. Rooted in the Constitution

Scalia and Ginsburg said their differences in opinion are rooted in their interpretations of the Constitution.

Scalia said the Constitution’s meaning has remained the same throughout the years.

“There is no living Constitution unless it’s enduring,” he said.

Ginsburg, who is one of the liberal members of the Supreme Court, said the text was written by white male property owners and wasn’t representative of all Americans.

“The Founders had some grand ideas,” she said. “These grand ideas were meant to develop as society developed.”

4. It’s about that time

The justices are in their late 70s and early 80s, but they said they had no intention of leaving the Supreme Court in the near future.

Scalia said he will retire when he thinks he no longer does the job the way he used to do it.

Ginsburg, who is three years older than Scalia, said she won’t retire as long as she can work “full steam.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.