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

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    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.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora