Americans pay their respects to Justice Scalia

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On the cold, cloudy day of Feb. 19, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was honored by the American people he served.

As his coffin lay in the Great Hall of the United States Supreme Court, draped with a flag and guarded by four former law clerks, tens of thousands of people stood outside. They waited for hours in a line that spanned more than four blocks for the chance to pay their respects.

Some visitors had little in common ideologically with Scalia, but were impelled to brave the cold out of a sense of duty. George Washington University student Roger Adams and two of his friends donned suits to commemorate the justice.

"It's just a historic moment in time," said the pre-law student, who hopes to become a politician. "I want to honor public servants," said Adams, even those with different political beliefs.

Others had much in common with Scalia. "I'm a lawyer, I'm a first generation Italian American, and I'm a Catholic," said Kelley Miller, a parishioner of St. Theresa Church in Ashburn. "I think he's a role model for those of us in the faith."

As child, Miller knew she wanted to be a lawyer. She looked up to Scalia as an Italian American, and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as a woman. Now a corporate tax attorney, Miller had seen Scalia and other justices when she ushered at the annual Red Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington for those in the law profession. She witnessed his talent during oral arguments at the Supreme Court.

"He was always so brilliant, a brilliant jurist. Even if you didn't agree with him, when you read the opinion, he made you think. That's the mark of how smart and funny he was," Miller said.

Fans of Scalia's witticisms laid applesauce in addition to flowers by the steps of the Supreme Court, in homage to his dissent in the Affordable Care Act case, King v. Burwell. Scalia called one premise of the court's majority opinion "pure applesauce."

Notre Dame Law student Gabriela Weigel said, "At a trivia night Monday in honor of Scalia all of us had our teams named after funny things he said in his dissents, like applesauce and argle-bargle (a reference within Scalia's United States v. Windsor dissent)."

As mourners reached the inside of the court, they were asked to sign their names in a book before spending a moment of silence in front of Scalia's casket and portrait.

One Supreme Court employee was overcome by the sheer number of visitors. "I can't even find the words," she said, as she watched each person sign their name. "It's been such a comfort."

Di Mauro can be reached at zdimauro@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @zoeydimauro.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016