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Volokh Conspiracy

Justice Sotomayor on Justice Thomas

Just because justices disagree, does not mean they aren't fond of one another.


Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's close friendship with the late Justice Antonin Scalia is well known. Indeed, the Notorious RBG wrote the Foreword to Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived, the recently published volume of her notoriously conservative colleague's speeches and lectures.

Was the Ginsburg-Scalia relationship an aberration? I would hope not.

In recent remarks at the Vanderbilt Law School, Justice Sonia Sotomayor commented on Justice Clarence Thomas. From the Tennessean coverage:

Speaking during a wide-ranging question-and-answer session at the law school, Sotomayor touched on a number of topics, from her debut as a judge — which made her knees knock with nerves — to her strong bond with fellow Justice Clarence Thomas, who often disagrees with her on the bench. . . .

Sotomayor repeatedly returned to the theme of empathy during her remarks.

"A lot of people start with derision as their first response" to a disagreement, she said.

But she suggested it's better to forge relationships built on common ground even if you disagree with someone. She singled out Thomas as the justice "with whom I probably disagree the most.

"Yet I can stand here and say that I just love the man — as a person."

Justice Sotomayor's comments and Justice Ginsburg's fondness for Justice Scalia should remind us that political disagreement need not poison personal relationships.

(Hat tip: How Appealing.)