News / USA

    At Supreme Court Viewing, Universal Respect for Controversial Justice

    Members of the public walk past Justice Antonin Scalia’s flag-draped coffin inside the Great Hall of the US Supreme Court in Washington, February 19, 2016. (M.Snowiss/VOA)
    Members of the public walk past Justice Antonin Scalia’s flag-draped coffin inside the Great Hall of the US Supreme Court in Washington, February 19, 2016. (M.Snowiss/VOA)

    The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was known as a famously combative, often polarizing figure whose strict constitutionalist ideology won him as many adherents as detractors across an increasingly divided United States.

    Yet it was Scalia’s gregarious charm, sparkling wit and irrepressible joie de vivre, as much as his judicial philosophy, that brought thousands of dignitaries, friends, local residents and tourists to his beloved court on a cold February morning to pay their respects.

    Washington resident Cliftine Jones waits to pay respects to Justice Antonin Scalia outside the U.S. Supreme Court, Feb. 19, 2016. (M.Snowiss/VOA)Washington resident Cliftine Jones waits to pay respects to Justice Antonin Scalia outside the U.S. Supreme Court, Feb. 19, 2016. (M.Snowiss/VOA)
    x
    Washington resident Cliftine Jones waits to pay respects to Justice Antonin Scalia outside the U.S. Supreme Court, Feb. 19, 2016. (M.Snowiss/VOA)
    Washington resident Cliftine Jones waits to pay respects to Justice Antonin Scalia outside the U.S. Supreme Court, Feb. 19, 2016. (M.Snowiss/VOA)

    "I met him once. He was so gracious," said Washington resident Cliftine Jones. "It was my mom’s birthday. He wished her a happy birthday. It was heartfelt, genuine."

    "He’s an outstanding American," she continued. "A lot of people take our rights, and our country, for granted. He didn’t."

    Indeed, the combination of Scalia’s razor-sharp judicial mind and his irreverent charisma appeared to echo most prominently among those waiting to view his coffin.

    "I came today because I respect his fierce intellect, his undying passion for his faith and his splendid wit," said Sunjin Choi, a Korean-American from Fairfax, Virginia.

    "Plus, I love opera, and so does he," Choi said. "I also admire his friendship with Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg, who does not share his views. But they bonded with music, which is splendid."

    The Korean immigrant noted that she does not always agree with Scalia, but came "to pay respects for his contribution to this wonderful country."

    Scalia’s coffin, draped in an American flag, was on display all day Friday so that his fellow justices, law clerks, Supreme Court employees and Americans who simply respected him could pay homage to the current court’s longest-serving member.

    Sunjin Choi, a Korean-American from Fairfax, Va., shares Justice Antonin Scalia’s love of opera and admires his razor-sharp wit, Feb. 19, 2016. (M.Snowiss/VOA)Sunjin Choi, a Korean-American from Fairfax, Va., shares Justice Antonin Scalia’s love of opera and admires his razor-sharp wit, Feb. 19, 2016. (M.Snowiss/VOA)
    x
    Sunjin Choi, a Korean-American from Fairfax, Va., shares Justice Antonin Scalia’s love of opera and admires his razor-sharp wit, Feb. 19, 2016. (M.Snowiss/VOA)
    Sunjin Choi, a Korean-American from Fairfax, Va., shares Justice Antonin Scalia’s love of opera and admires his razor-sharp wit, Feb. 19, 2016. (M.Snowiss/VOA)

    Clerks stand guard

    Groups of four former clerks stood guard beside the coffin at all times, rotating every 30 minutes.

    Lawyer Dave Kruetz flew in from Toledo, Ohio, because he admired Scalia's judicial philosophy.

    Kreutz said there has been a lawyer in his family every generation since Joshua Seney represented Maryland at the 1775 Second Continental Congress - the group that led the American revolutionary war effort and moved the 13 colonies towards independence.

    He sees Scalia as a towering legal figure.

    "Our family considers Scalia to be the greatest justice of all time, so I’m here to wish him well," Kruetz said. "We believe in the text of the Constitution, and [Scalia] had the ability to interpret that very closely to how we feel it should have been done."

    Others, less enamored with Scalia’s ideology, felt connected nonetheless.

    Washington DC resident Dwight Jefferson works for the federal government and wanted to pay homage to Justice Scalia as a fellow public servant, February 19, 2016. (M.Snowiss/VOA)Washington DC resident Dwight Jefferson works for the federal government and wanted to pay homage to Justice Scalia as a fellow public servant, February 19, 2016. (M.Snowiss/VOA)
    x
    Washington DC resident Dwight Jefferson works for the federal government and wanted to pay homage to Justice Scalia as a fellow public servant, February 19, 2016. (M.Snowiss/VOA)
    Washington DC resident Dwight Jefferson works for the federal government and wanted to pay homage to Justice Scalia as a fellow public servant, February 19, 2016. (M.Snowiss/VOA)

    "I came today to pay respects to a public servant," said Washington resident Dwight Jefferson. "I’m a public servant myself, and it’s a duty I take very seriously."

    "Even though I didn’t agree with Justice Scalia’s view of the Constitution as a document set in stone, I still respect him," Jefferson said.

    Two federal appeals court judges who have been mentioned as potential Supreme Court nominees — Sri Srinivasan and Patricia Millett — were in the line of those paying their respects. President Barack Obama, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, also came to say farewell, pausing beside Scalia's coffin.

    T.J. Schmidt, a lawyer from Kearneysville, West Virginia, drove to Washington with his two children for Friday’s ceremony.

    "I felt it was important to show my kids a little about our country," Schmidt said. "I think, regardless of ideology, he was well-respected on the court, and his wit and ability to articulate his positions will be sorely missed.

    • The casket of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia arrives at the Supreme Court in Washington, Feb. 19, 2016.
    • The casket of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia arrives at the Supreme Court in Washington, Feb. 19, 2016.
    • A woman cries as friends and staff of the Supreme Court attend a private ceremony in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court where late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia lies in repose, Feb. 19, 2016, in Washington.
    • People stand in line to view the casket of Justice Antonin Scalia at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, Feb. 19, 2016.
    • Jose Fernandez stands outside the U.S. Supreme Court building with a sign reading "Justice Scalia Loved America" shortly after the casket of Scalia arrived at the court to lie in repose in Washington, Feb. 19, 2016.
    • People line up to pay their respect to the late Justice Antonin Scalia in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court in Washington, where Scalia's body lies in repose, Feb.19, 2016.
    • Members of the public file in to view the casket containing the remains of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as it lies in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court in Washington, Feb. 19, 2016.
    • Law clerks are relieved by the next team of law clerks as they stand vigil while members of the public walk through the Great Hall of the Supreme Court in Washington, where late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia lies in repose, Feb. 19, 2016.

     

    "As an attorney, I certainly read a lot of his opinions and dissents. I tend to support most of his decisions, but I don’t see eye to eye with him on everything."

    Neither does Evan El-Amin, a New Jersey resident who works for Thompson-Reuters. "I didn’t always agree with Scalia, but I do respect [his] process of thinking about things," he said.

    That’s a sentiment clearly shared by many.


    Mark Snowiss

    Mark Snowiss is a Washington D.C.-based multimedia reporter.  He has written and edited for various media outlets including Pacifica and NPR affiliates in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @msnowiss and on Google Plus

    You May Like

    UN Observes International Day of Peacekeepers

    The U.N. honors 3,400 peacekeepers killed since first mission in 1948

    Video Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora