Nino and Me: My Unusual Friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia by Bryan A. Garner, Threshold Editions, US $28.00, Pp 346, January 2018, ISBN 978-1501181498
In December 1988, Bryan A. Garner was a featured speaker at the British Embassy in Washington D.C. The event was aimed at promoting Texas/Oxford Center for Legal Lexicography. Bryan A. Garner had brought the deal together by negotiating to have the Oxford University Press and the University of Texas sponsor what was planned to become The Oxford Law Dictionary – the first and the only historical law dictionary. Justice Antonin Scalia was also attending that event. This was the beginning of the unlikely friendship and writing collaboration between Bryan A. Garner and Justice Antonin Scalia. In Nino and Me, Bryan A. Garner says that it was the unlikeliest friendship and collaboration in the recent history of legal writing. They wrote two books together and appeared onstage more than 40 times. Nino and Me is Garner’s remembrance of him and their time together.
Garner says that Justice Scalia was a man of strong likes and dislikes: one was that he relished long paragraphs and recoiled from single-sentence ones. He was at once conservative but nonconformist, temperamental but companionable, epicurean but admiring of asceticism, passionate but duty conscious, thoughtful but unremorseful, rotund but athletic, ultra-competitive but compassionate, serious but often impish. At turns, Justice Scalia could be jovial or tetchy, demanding or forgiving, taciturn or talkative, curmudgeonly or resigned, pugnacious or agreeable, stubborn or acquiescent. With his expressive and symmetrical face, his high forehead accentuated by hair neatly combed straight back, he was quick to smile when amused, and predisposed to guffaw with unreserved gusto.
He liked bright-line distinctions and clear rules and abhorred blurred lines and fuzzy indecisiveness. Adoring of his parents, Garner says, Justice Scalia rebelled against his father by becoming an even more devout Roman Catholic at a time when his father was an unbeliever. He preferred a Latin Mass on Sunday and bristled at Masses featuring folk music. As a teenager in New York, he had been something of a heartthrob on a TV show about adolescent etiquette. In a way that he could never have imagined then, he later became an intellectual heartthrob to many. But despite all the beautiful law-student devotees who sought him out for pictures and autographs at every public event, he was a husband of unwavering devotion with nothing but an amused chuckle and a signature for his young admirers. He loved the routine of doing yard work alone and of playing poker regularly with friends.
Garner says that those who loved Justice did so with fervor and devotion and those inclined to loathe his ideas were more often than not disarmed by how much, upon meeting him, they were drawn to him — and at how cogent and intelligent his ideas were when fairly presented. Nino and Me is replete with direct quotations. They are not all verbatim, but Garner says that all the conversations took place and that many are indeed word for word, and the rest are at least close. Garner had maintained diaries and notes over the years.
Nino and Me is a marvelous memoir of a leading legal mind that brings Justice Scalia back to life. It breaks ground in understanding the mind and thought of a great jurist and conservative thinker. It captures Justice Scalia’s personality, his brilliance of mind, and knowledge, and establishes him as an adroit legal wordsmith of our times. Nino and Me shows that Justice Scalia was a jurist of captivating brilliance who advanced originalism and judicial restraint. Nino and Me is so brilliantly written that even a high schooler will enjoy reading it as much as a jurist.