Nino and Me
Two Book Reviews in Tandem:
Nino and Me: My Unusual Friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia
by Bryan A. Garner
(Published January 16, 2008)
Making Your Case:
The Art of Persuading Judges
by Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner
(Published April 28, 2008)
"Although death ends a life, it doesn’t end a friendship."
Bryan A. Garner
Nino and Me
Nino and Me, a memoir of Justice Antonin Scalia by his friend and coauthor, Bryan A. Garner, is not just for lawyers and conservative admirers of Justice Antonin Scalia. Anyone interested in language, writing or the law would find Garner's book compelling and enjoyable. Released just this month, Nino and Me is a superb, intimate, and forthright account of Scalia. Garner’s admiration for Scalia is moving. He observes, “Although death ends a life, it doesn’t end a friendship.”
I am not a natural Scalia fan – rather, I consider myself a devoted RBG-girl. Considering Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s feminist and traditionally liberal beliefs, her reputed friendship with Scalia has always bewildered me. Scalia’s writing seemed tyrannical and rude. Scalia had either personally authored or joined every modern SCOTUS decision that I disliked. I’ve asked myself countless times: “What on earth did Ginsburg find appealing about this bully?” By complete chance browsing the shelves of my local law library, I recently picked up a copy of Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges. After seeing Scalia’s name listed as co-author, I perused the text for obvious signs of conservative propaganda but found no evidence of political bias. The text also looked surprisingly readable and [gasp] humorous for legal prose. I told myself, “If Ginsburg was his friend, I should give Scalia more of a chance.”
I feel permanently enriched by this impulsive decision to set aside my own personal biases. Making Your Case is a pithy guide to legal advocacy featuring carefully selected wisdom from Aristotle to Scalia himself. Garner is notably the current editor of the renowned "Black's Law Dictionary," which is the source for any question about legal terms or verbiage. Every lawyer should be required to read Making Your Case. I’m ten years out of law school, and my memories of my “Legal Research & Writing” course are positive, but spotty. I forgot many nuggets of advice from that class that I was able to review and build further while reading Making Your Case. Some of Garner’s points, like the ambiguity of “shall,” were things I knew as I graduated from law school, thanks to a very wise and progressive legal writing instructor. However, many of the things I understood were set aside against my better judgment as I encountered well-seasoned supervising attorneys that dismissed my approach to legal writing. Converting another attorney from the overuse and ambiguous use of "shall" is not an easy endeavor, and was certainly beyond my persuasive abilities as a fresh law school graduate. Gradually, my writing became worse and less-confident. Now that I have the professional independence and experience, I finally have the "space" to focus on professional self-improvement. It's very exciting to have a comprehensible guide to improving my writing and one that I can immediately put to use in my law practice.
A signification portion of Garner’s memoir, Nino and Me, explains the background and writing process behind Making Your Case. Knowing how much effort Scalia and Garner put into writing and revising this book elevates my appreciation for it even more. I was also shocked to learn that this book came very close to never existing. After Garner conducted an interview with Scalia, he wrote him to suggest the collaboration. Garner thereafter told his father about the proposal, who responded, “You should be embarrassed.” Garner’s father encouraged him to attempt an interception of the delivery, but when Garner contacted the delivery carrier, he was informed that the letter had been delivered just 30 minutes prior.
Garner reminisces many humorous conversations between Scalia and himself. At one point, Garner recounts when the New York Times quoted one of Scalia’s opinions but misspelled the 13th-century idiom “just deserts” as “just desserts.” Garner followed up with a letter to the editor, correcting the error, defending Scalia, and requesting a retraction to preserve Scalia’s professional integrity. The Times did not respond.
In sum, I would recommend Nino and Me as a worthwhile read for anyone in the general non-fiction audience. Scalia was an enormously influential figure in our modern history and we are lucky to have such a personal and well-written account of him. For any lawyer, I’d recommend reading Making your Case first, then immediately following up with Nino and Me. These two books are among the best I have read in their genres.