Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

‘Justice Scalia’s Great Heart’

From a beautiful piece by that title by Jeffrey Tucker:

It was a spring afternoon some years ago, and [Justice Scalia] was attending church services, sitting in a back pew, holding his prayer book in his hands. The Mass had ended and most people had gone. He was still saying prayers, alone in the back pew.

He finally got up and began to walk out. There were no reporters, nobody watching. There was only a woman who had been attending the same services. She had no idea who he was. I was a bystander, and I’m certain he didn’t know I was there.

What was a bit unusual about this woman: she had lashing sores on her face and hands. They were open sores. There was some disease, and not just physically. She behaved strangely, a troubled person that you meet in large cities and quickly walk away from. A person to avoid and certainly never touch.

For whatever reason, she walked up to Justice Scalia, who was alone. He took her hands, though they were full of sores. She leaned in to say something, and she began to cry.

He held her face next to his, and she talked beneath her tears that were now streaming down his suit. He didn’t flinch. He didn’t try to get away. He just held her while she spoke. This lasted for perhaps more than 5 minutes. He closed his eyes while she she spoke, gripping her back with his hand.

He didn’t recoil. He stood there with conviction. And love.

There were no cameras and no other onlookers besides myself, and he had no idea I was there.

Finally she was finished. What he said comforted her, and she gained composure. She pulled away, ready to go. He held her rough, sore-filled hands and had a few final words that I could not hear. He gave her some money.

And then she walked away.

And then he walked away, across the green grass, toward the Supreme Court building, alone. He was probably preparing for an afternoon of work.

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