President Trump's call for unity and bipartisanship during his State of the Union on Tuesday wasn't the only appeal for a break from the hyper-partisan atmosphere that has engulfed Washington, D.C.
Along with the president, justices on the Supreme Court on at least two separate and unrelated occasions in as many weeks spoke to the need for civility. Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, during a speech at Stockton University in New Jersey last week, and again by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who sits on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum from Gorsuch, in two different events.
The calls for civility from the justices come at a time of heightened partisanship, particularly in the nation's capital, where it didn’t take long for Democrats to criticize the president’s address as “divisive” and “appalling.”
“Someday, I hope we will get back to the way it was,” Ginsburg told a crowd at Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island during an event Tuesday. “I think it will take great leaders on both sides of the aisle to say, ‘Let’s stop this nonsense and start working for the country the way we should.'”
Ginsburg and four other justices missed the president’s State of the Union address, but she cited the confirmations of the four most recent justices named to the high court as evidence of the partisanship that has consumed Washington.
“Four fine justices who should have gotten overwhelming support but got many negative votes,” she said.
The 84-year-old recalled her own confirmation process, when Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was her “biggest supporter” on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Though Ginsburg and Gorsuch may have differing ideological viewpoints, they both appeared to agree that civility is vital to “keeping our Republic,” as Gorsuch stated last week.
“To preserve our civil liberties, we have to work on being civil with one another,” Gorsuch said during the event at Stockton University, according to reports.
The Supreme Court justice, the newest to join the high court, cautioned that when others act uncivilly, “you will be tempted to respond in kind.”
“But it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable,” Gorsuch continued. “At the end of the day, your character is the most important thing in your possession.”
Both Gorsuch and Ginsburg praised their colleagues on the high court, who span the ideological spectrum.
“I’ve got pretty civil colleagues,” Gorsuch said. “Disagreement is part of the job description. It doesn’t stop us from having dinner together.”
Speaking at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Ginsburg echoed her fellow justice. She recounted her close friendship with the late Justice Antonin Scalia as an example of the relationships she has forged on the bench despite ideological differences.
“The Supreme Court is the most collegial place I’ve ever worked,” she said. “We all respect, and in most cases, genuinely like each other.”