The body of retired justice John Paul Stevens, who died last week at age 99, returned Monday morning to the Great Hall of the Supreme Court, where he served for 35 terms.
A bare majority of the scattered Supreme Court, on summer break, was on hand as Justice Elena Kagan called Stevens a hero.
“He was a brilliant man with extraordinary gifts and talents, which he combined with a deep devotion to the rule of law and a deep commitment to equal justice,” Kagan said.
Kagan, who was nominated by President Barack Obama to replace Stevens after his 2010 retirement, added: “I’ve thought about the enormity of Justice Stevens’ shoes and the impossibility of filling them.”
Stevens, a leader of the court’s liberal wing, died July 16 after having a stroke the day before at his home in Florida.
The casket bearing Stevens arrived at the court just before 9:30 a.m., and more than 80 of his former clerks were lined up on the building’s grand steps.
Inside, Kagan was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Sonia Sotomayor.
President Trump tweeted that he and the first lady would pay their respects at the court Monday.
Retired Justice Anthony M. Kennedy was there, and retired Justice David Souter will come for Tuesday’s private funeral. The court has scattered for the summer, and Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen G. Breyer, Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh are not expected to attend. Kavanaugh’s wife, Ashley, stood in his place.
Supreme Court police officers served as pallbearers, placing Stevens’s casket on the Lincoln Catafalque, which Congress has lent for the ceremony. A 1991 portrait of Stevens by James Ingwersen was on display in the Great Hall.
The court’s last ceremony honoring a deceased colleague was in 2016, after the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Stevens will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday, following a private funeral.
Stevens was a moderate Republican lawyer from the Midwest who was selected for the federal bench by President Richard M. Nixon, and elevated to the Supreme Court by President Gerald R. Ford.
The only justices who served longer than he did were William O. Douglas, whom Stevens replaced in 1975, and Stephen J. Field, a nominee of President Abraham Lincoln who served for much of the late 19th century.
During his tenure, Stevens became a leader of the court’s left, and wrote the court’s opinions in landmark cases involving government regulation, the death penalty, criminal law, intellectual property and civil liberties. He wrote notable dissents to the court’s Bush v. Gore ruling in 2000, and to its decision saying the Second Amendment guaranteed a right to gun ownership unrelated to military service.
Stevens joined the Navy as an intelligence officer on Dec. 6, 1941 — the day before Pearl Harbor was attacked. He would later serve there during World War II, and was awarded a Bronze Star for his work at as code breaker, studying Japanese communications to find patterns that helped identify or locate enemy forces.
President Barack Obama awarded Stevens the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. Obama also had selected Stevens’s replacement, Kagan, after Stevens retired in 2010.
In retirement, Stevens wrote three books, including a memoir released in May, “The Making of a Justice.”
Get your political fix at Politician Direct – the best source of direct political news