The political debate that has taken over Washington concerning the future of the Supreme Court has overshadowed the impact Justice Antonin Scalia’s death will have on the current institution. It’s a tight-knit community that keeps an arm’s length distance from the political branches.
While the justices have their bitter debates and occasional flare-ups, the statements they released this week reflected the deep respect they had for Scalia. Chief Justice John Roberts called him an “extraordinary jurist.” Justice Stephen Breyer said he was a “legal titan.” And Justice Elena Kagan, the court’s junior most member, said he would go down in history “as one of the most transformational Supreme Court Justices of our nation.”
Justice Scalia will lie in repose in the Great Hall in the Supreme Court building Friday. Here are some fast facts about the man, the court and traditions you’ll see Friday and Saturday.
Family: Scalia and his wife, Maureen, have nine children: Ann Forrest, Eugene, John Francis, Catherine Elisabeth, Mary Claire, Paul David, Matthew, Christopher James and Margaret Jane. He has 36 grandchildren.
Supreme Court Great Hall: On either side of the corridor there are rows of marble columns and the busts of all former chief justices are set in niches on marble pedestals. The public will pay respects from 10:30 AM until 8 PM.
What is a catafalque? Scalia’s coffin will be carried up the stairs and will be placed upon the catafalque, essentially a raised platform draped in black, that has been used since 1865 for services on Capitol Hill. It was constructed for the coffin of Abraham Lincoln. It was used in 1993 for former Justice Thurgood Marshall and in 1995 for former Chief Justice Warren Burger.
Pallbearers: Supreme Court police officers will serve as pallbearers. Former law clerks to the late justice will serve as honorary pallbearers. Look for Paul Clement, a former solicitor general, who might be one of them. Clement would be on the short list for any Republican president as a potential nominee to the court.
Memorial Draping of the Courtroom: In accordance with Supreme Court tradition, the courtroom doors have been draped in black following Scalia’s death as have bench in front of his seat and his seat. This tradition dates back at least as far as the death of Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase in 1873. The flags on the court’s front plaza will be flown at half-staff for 30 days.
Monday, justices will take the bench for the first time since Scalia’s death to hear arguments. Justices sit on the bench in order of seniority with the two most senior members on either side of the Chief Justice. It’s unclear whether the new seating arrangement will be in place by Monday, or if they will leave the chair draped in black for a period of time.
Who were his best friends on the court? He said many times that his “best buddy” was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They served together on the lower court, and even though they were ideological opposites, they had a close friendship. Scalia said last year: “Why don’t you call us the odd couple?” Scalia was also close with Justice Clarence Thomas, who shares his belief that the Constitution’s should be interpreted as it was understood by those who drafted it. Scalia taught Kagan, a self described city girl, how to hunt.
Who was the last justice to die on the bench? According to Marquette University Law School: “Over the past 60 years, dying while still on the bench has become quite rare. Since Justice Robert Jackson died unexpectedly in 1954, 23 justices have left the court and only one, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, died while still on the bench. For the half century between 1955 and 2005, there was not a single death of a sitting Supreme Court justice.
Mass: Scalia’s funeral Mass will be celebrated on Saturday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It’s only open to friends and family members. It will be followed by a private burial.
Celebrant: Father Paul Scalia, Antonin Scalia’s son, will be the celebrant – the person who will lead the mass – for his father’s funeral mass and deliver the homily.
Who is Father Scalia? Father Paul Scalia is the Delegate for Priests in the Diocese of Arlington, a position he now holds full-time after three years as pastor at Saint John the Beloved Catholic Church in McLean, Virginia. He received a Master of Arts degree from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Angelicum, in Rome in 1996 and was ordained a Priest for the Diocese of Arlington the same year.
Donations: The Scalia family has asked that in lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Supreme Court Historical Society; Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington; and Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.