- The Washington Times - Friday, February 19, 2016

When a hearse carrying the body of Justice Antonin Scalia arrived at the Supreme Court early Friday, hundreds had already lined adjacent sidewalks — some for several hours — to witness the current court’s longest-serving justice enter the Great Hall for the last time after nearly 30 years on the bench.

Withstanding near-freezing temperatures, close to 300 people had amassed along East Capitol Street in northeast D.C. when the Supreme Court opened its doors so the public could pay their respects to Justice Scalia, who died over the weekend during a hunting trip in Texas. His body is scheduled to lie in repose inside the courthouse until a Saturday morning funeral mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Huddled together at the front of the queue stood two students from St. Mary’s School, an all-girls high school in Raleigh, North Carolina. The two girls, in town on a school field trip, elected to get in line before sunrise instead of sleeping in at a nearby hotel with their AP government classmates.

“We are in D.C. to learn about the government firsthand, and it doesn’t get much more firsthand than this,” Emily Weatherspoon, 17, told The Times.

About 100 yards past the teens, Jordan Siverd, a Louisiana lawyer, wrapped his arms around his 5-year-old son as they wrestled for warmth while waiting to pay their respects to Justice Scalia.

“He’s had an enormous influence on the work that I do every day,” said Mr. Siverd, who traveled nearly 1,000 miles with his wife and son from near New Orleans to honor the late justice.

“I think he really believed in the law as an objective expression of the voice of the people that judges needed to abide, and so that’s what inspires me sort of on a daily basis,” said Mr. Silverd, whose LinkedIn profile identifies him a federal attorney with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. “His work in the area of the Sixth Amendment, and particularly its impact on federal sentencing law, is what our court pretty much deals with on a daily basis, so there’s the sort of practical impact that he had and there’s sort of the bigger inspirational impact that i feel like he’s had on me personally.”

Most of the individuals who offered to share their stories while in line outside the Supreme Court on Friday hailed Justice Scalia as an influential figure in modern U.S. history, regardless of whether they agree with all of his rulings.

“Obviously he was very conservative, and personally I don’t necessarily agree with everything, but I think it’s really important for us to have some kind of challenges and to have different views on different events, because I think that if we all thought the same we would have a serious problem,” said St. Mary’s student Sara Nderitu.

Rhaleta Bernard, a Queens, N.Y., schoolteacher, raised concerns over the remaining justices’ ability to rule in the wake of Justice Scalia’s death.

“I think the tide is going to turn in the United States with his passing, and I think enough people don’t know the affect that he’s had on this nation—a positive affect,” Ms. Bernard said. “He was a judge that strictly interpreted the Constitution, and I liked that. Even though he disagreed with something, if it was constitutional he’d say ‘stupid — but constitutional,’ and I appreciate that. Because to me that’s honesty, and that’s what we need.”

Bipartisan bickering over whether President Obama should nominate a successor 11 months before leaving the White House has complicated matters for the court. Republican leaders have vowed to reject any candidate endorsed by Mr. Obama with the November elections quickly approaching, in turn leaving an even number of justices on the bench until a replacement can be agreed upon — a decision that could take months.

Known for his fondness for the founding documents, Justice Scalia would likely agree that Mr. Obama should soon nominate a successor as outlined in the Constitution, said several people in line.

“I think the president should make his nomination in a reasonable amount of time,” said Marcia Gross, a retiree from Columbia, Maryland. “I think the Senate should hold hearings and if they agree they should confirm, and if they don’t agree they should turn it down and let him nominate again. But I believe that the process needs to go forward.”

Rocky Wilkinson, a Virginia resident who said he came to pay his respects to “the godfather of conservatism,” agreed.

“I think the president should make a nomination as is his duty, and the Congress should vote on it as is their duty,” he said.

Justice Scalia was “a fellow who did not believe that the Constitution was a living and breathing document, but believed that it was a fundamental Rock of Gibraltar,” and would likely agree that Mr. Obama should nominate a successor, regardless of how long is left in his term, Mr. Wilkerson said.

“Everybody has their job to do, and they’re going to do it whether we like the results,” he said. “It’s like making sausages — not necessarily neat and clean all the time, is it?”

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