President Barack Obama and thousands of other mourners paid respects to the late Justice Antonin Scalia as his flag-draped casket lay in the U.S. Supreme Court’s ceremonial hallway.
Pallbearers carried Scalia’s casket up the court’s marble staircase into the building this morning as his somber, and in some cases tearful, former colleagues waited along with family members, former law clerks and court staff.
Chief Justice John Roberts wiped away tears, and Justices Elena Kagan and Samuel Alito fought them back as well. The eight justices stood silently in the new order they will take on the bench, leaving extra space between Roberts and Clarence Thomas, who had previously flanked Scalia.
The president and First Lady Michelle Obama arrived later in the day. They were greeted by Roberts and met a few of Scalia’s family members before spending a moment at the casket and then at the late justice’s official portrait.
During the morning ceremony, Paul Scalia, a Roman Catholic priest and one of the late justice’s nine children, offered a prayer. “In your wisdom, you have called your servant Antonin out of this world,” he said. “Release him from the bonds of sin and welcome him to your presence.”
Scalia’s wife Maureen, his other children and dozens of grandchildren looked on silently amid the flowers and wreaths that decorated the court’s Great Hall.
Almost 100 of Scalia’s former law clerks attended, and they took turns standing watch over the casket along with an honor guard.
Scalia, who died at a west Texas resort ranch last weekend at age 79, will lie in repose for public viewing until late in the evening. His casket is resting on the catafalque that was quickly constructed in 1865 for President Abraham Lincoln after his assassination.
Throughout the day, a long line for members of the public wishing to view the casket stretched for more than a block, around the side of the court and across a street. Some waited in line more than an hour.
Scalia served for almost three decades on the nation’s highest court, making his mark by advocating an “originalist” approach to the Constitution that limited protections to those specifically laid out in the document. He was known for his bluntness, wit and sarcasm, both in his opinions and in public appearances.
His unexpected death has transformed the future of the court and the nation’s politics. Senate Republicans are aiming to stop Obama from filling the seat before he leaves office in January.
Scalia will be buried after a funeral Saturday in Washington at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the country’s largest Catholic church. Retired justices John Paul Stevens and David Souter are expected to attend, as is Vice President Joe Biden.