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Ginsburg: Supreme Court a 'Paler Place' Without Scalia

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks at the memorial service for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on March 1, 2016, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told PBS’ Charlie Rose that the highest court in the land is “paler” today without her good friend Justice Antonin Scalia.

The two friends shared a love of opera, and Ginsburg remembered that the late conservative justice “was much better singer” than she.

“Justice Scalia had a very good tenor voice. In fact he had been, when he was an undergraduate at Georgetown, he was in the glee club at Georgetown, and I am a monotone,” she said.

Ginsburg said she was shocked by Scalia’s death in his sleep while at a Texas hunting ranch in February, and that she “of course” misses him on the court.

“It’s a paler place without him,” she said. “Paler. Because he was a wonderful storyteller. He had an uncanny ability to make even the most somber judge smile.”

“He told many jokes. He was very good humored. We shared a passion for opera, and we both genuinely cared about family.”

Also with his absence, Ginsburg noted, “four and four, eight is not a good number for a collegial body that sometimes disagrees — sometimes disagrees, I should stress, because the press doesn’t explain it as it should.”

“We are unanimous, at least in the bottom line judgment, much more often than we divide 5-4. So I would say we are unanimous in about 40 percent of the cases … and the divisions of the 5 to 4 or 5 to 3 were only eight, that they would be maybe 20 percent. So we agree much more than we disagree. Even so, if we divide 5-4, we are unable to issue a binding judgment, what we do is we automatically affirm the decision of the court below. No opinion is written, no reasons are given, and the affirmens has no precedential value. So if we divide 5-4, it’s just as though we denied review,” she explained.

“…We took the case because courts of appeal disagreed. If we’re unable to decide the question, you can have one federal law in one area of the country, and the opposite federal law in another part of the country. So it’s important that the Supreme Court be able to resolve conflicts among other courts about what the federal law is. That is why eight is not a good number.”

When asked about Hillary Clinton potentially stacking the court with liberal justices, Ginsburg said she resisted “the notion that, if you are a Democrat, then you are ‘liberal.'”

“Just think of John Paul Stevens appointed by President Ford, then Souter appointed by the first President Bush,” she said. “They were not ‘conservative.'”

Ginsburg, 83 and a two-time cancer survivor, vowed to “hold this office as long as I can do the job full steam.”