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Ruth Bader Ginsburg Bids Farewell To Her Unlikely Friend Antonin Scalia

At opposite sides of the political and legal aisle, Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were the Supreme Court's odd couple — and "best buddies."

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Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg built a genuine friendship from the bench of the highest court in the country even though they sat on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum.

The two built their law careers roughly during same period, but took significantly different paths. Scalia, who spent nearly 30 years on the Supreme Court's bench, died Saturday at the age of 79.

"From our years together at the D.C. Circuit, we were best buddies," Ginsburg said in a statement on Sunday. "We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation."

Scalia, who was three years younger than Ginsburg, was a founder of the Federalist Society and went on to become a beacon of conservative values. Meanwhile Ginsburg led the women's rights project at the American Civil Liberties Union.

"He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh," Ginsburg said.

And even though he came to call some of Ginsburg's decisions from the bench "implausible speculation" or "self-righteous," the two colleagues were known to vacation together, bring in the New Year together, and say at times surprisingly kind words about each other.

"As annoyed as you might be about his zinging dissent, he's so utterly charming, so amusing, so sometimes outrageous you can't help but say, 'I'm glad that he's my friend or colleague,'" Ginsburg told 60 Minutes in an interview about her colleague.

Their unexpected friendship was perhaps best exemplified by a photo published in back in 1994, showing the two atop of an elephant and waving.

Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg ride an elephant together in India, 1994 https://t.co/hJlHRtIuuS

Discussing the picture at an event at George Washington University last year, Scalia teased Ginsburg that her "feminist friends" were upset at her for riding behind him. Not missing a beat, Ginsburg struck back, telling him the driver decided their seats based on weight distribution.

Their most basic legal philosophy was at odds.

Scalia believed in the legal concept of originalism, or that the Constitution should be interpreted according to what it meant to those who ratified it. He vehemently criticized "activist judges" who strayed beyond that role.

Ginsburg interprets the Constitution as a living document, one that can be interpreted according to the changes of American society.

In an interview with 60 Minutes, Scalia scoffed at the idea he could not be friends with professional rivals. He attended operas with Ginsburg and, in at least one occasion, went on a hunting trip with Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, who was nominated to the bench by President Obama.

"I attack ideas. I don't attack people, and some very good people have some very bad ideas," he told 60 Minutes. "If you can't separate the two, you have to get another day job."

When President Obama addressed the country shortly after Scalia's death, he also noted his friendship with Ginsburg, which included a passion for the opera.

Their relationship even inspired an opera of its own, by composer Derrick Wang, which premiered last year year. In "Scalia/Ginsburg," the legal odd-couple have to undergo three cosmic trials as they face a higher power.

#SCOTUS Justice #RBG looks fwd to “marvelously amusing” ‘Scalia/Ginsburg’ #opera (h/t Spring 2015 @OPERAAmerica mag)

According to the Los Angeles Times, their friendship grew thanks to Ginsburg's husband, a Georgetown law professor considered a "self-taught chef." Scalia and his wife became frequent guests.

In 2010, when the chief justice announced from the bench the death of RBG's husband Marty, Scalia wept.

His views were not maddening, Ginsburg told 60 Minutes, but a challenge.

"It was my great good fortune to have known him as working colleague and treasured friend," she said Sunday.

For Scalia, who referred to himself as a "shin-kicker," his friendships and views were not necessarily contradictory.

"I can be combative at the same time," Scalia said. "I love to argue. I've always loved to argue and I love to point out the weaknesses of the opposing arguments."

Salvador Hernandez is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Salvador Hernandez at salvador.hernandez@buzzfeed.com.

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