Mourners pay respects to late Justice Scalia
Washington — Justice Antonin Scalia’s flag-draped casket was carried up the marble steps of the Supreme Court Friday in a somber procession that began a day of ceremony and tribute to one of the court’s most influential members.
Scalia’s eight Supreme Court colleagues, his family and nearly 100 former law clerks watched solemnly as Supreme Court police placed the casket on a funeral bier first used after President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.
The Rev. Paul Scalia, the justice’s son and a Catholic priest, said traditional prayers. “You have called your servant Antonin out of this world,” he said. “May he rest in peace.”
A 2007 portrait of Scalia by artist Nelson Shanks was displayed nearby. In it, the justice is shown surrounded by images representing important moments and influences in his life, including a framed wedding photograph of his wife, Maureen. She, their nine children and three dozen grandchildren were present.
Before Scalia’s body arrived, his former clerks formed two lines down the court steps and across its marble plaza. A few wiped away tears after the casket arrived. The clerks will take turns standing vigil by their former boss throughout the day and night in a tradition most recently observed after the 2005 death of former Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
The doors to the court chamber, where Scalia had served for nearly 30 years, were open at the east end of the hall. Black wool crepe hung over the entrance, and Scalia’s courtroom chair was draped in black.
After a private ceremony for family, friends and justices, Scalia’s casket was on public view from 10:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. The line of people waiting to pay respects stretched for nearly a block just before the public was allowed in.
Rhaleta Bernard of Queens, New York, where Scalia grew up, had been visiting Washington with her husband, Kelvin. They changed their bus tickets in order to pay respects.
Bernard said Scalia “believes in interpreting the law, not making the law.”
“I want another Scalia,” said Bernard, a reading specialist. “I don’t think there’s another one, though.”
Outside, fans of the former justice created a small memorial at the bottom of the court steps, leaving two jars of applesauce, a package of paper bags and a pile of fortune cookies — a nod to his biting dissents last year in the court’s gay marriage case and its ruling rejecting a challenge to President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Scalia had called the ruling in the health care case “pure applesauce.” He compared the gay marriage majority opinion it to the “mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie” and said he would hide his head in a paper bag if he ever joined such an opinion.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama planned to pay respects later Friday, while Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden were to attend Scalia’s funeral Mass on Saturday.
The Mass open to family and friends will take place Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Burial plans have not been released.
Scalia’s sudden death complicated an already tumultuous election year. His death gives Obama a chance to replace the conservative stalwart with a more liberal successor who could tilt the ideological balance of the court for decades to come.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other GOP leaders have said a replacement should not be named until the next president takes office. Obama has pledged to pick a replacement “in due time” and challenged Republicans to hold a vote on his nominee.
Scalia was found dead on Saturday in his room at a remote Texas hunting resort. The 79-year-old jurist was appointed to the court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan.