“It was as though we all owed it to her to reciprocate her conscientiousness. I cannot recall a single colleague who felt burdened by this. In fact, it often served as a source of laughter. When we discussed circulating opinions, she might quietly note that several colleagues had not responded to her opinion that circulated a day or two before. And, because it was her opinion, we would laughingly chide the ‘tardy’ colleague,” Thomas wrote.
Thomas first worked with Ginsburg when they served together on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Ginsburg had already been a judge on the court for nearly a decade when Thomas arrived in 1990, and he left for the Supreme Court just 19 months later. But he says Ginsburg invited him to dinner and they were assigned to the same three-judge panels a few times.
Before Ginsburg joined the Supreme Court in 1993, Thomas remembered, another justice asked his opinion of her. He gave her rave reviews based on their brief time together on the appeals court.
“In my short time as a judge and as a member of the Court, I had learned that, unlike elsewhere in the city, disagreement was not the controlling factor in relationships among judges. Character and work ethic were far more important. I expected Judge Ginsburg would be an excellent colleague, and her tenure converted my assessment to a prophecy,” he wrote.
On the court, the liberal Ginsburg and conservative Thomas disagreed more often than almost any other pair of justices. In her last term on the court, for example, they agreed with each other only 49% of the time. Only Justice Sonia Sotomayor disagreed with Thomas more often, according to statistics compiled on the SCOTUSblog website.
“Justice Ginsburg and I often disagreed, but at no time during our long tenure together were we disagreeable with each other. She placed a premium on civility and respect,” Thomas wrote.