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In Photos: A Short History Of Official Funerals For Supreme Court Justices

Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, from front to back: John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg; walk down the steps of the Supreme Court as they wait for the casket carrying Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist in Sept. 2005.
Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, from front to back: John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg; walk down the steps of the Supreme Court as they wait for the casket carrying Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist in Sept. 2005.

This morning, the Supreme Court draped a black wool crepe on Justice Antonin Scalia's chair and the bench in front of it.

It's a tradition that dates back to 1873 after the death of Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, and for Scalia, it's the beginning of a series of highly choreographed tributes. As tradition would have it, on Friday, Scalia's flagged-draped casket will be carried up the court steps and the surviving justices will stand in wait to receive it.

Former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall's casket is carried up the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, past the nine current justices and other retired members of the high court in January of 1993.
Robert Giroux / AFP/Getty Images
Former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall's casket is carried up the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, past the nine current justices and other retired members of the high court in January of 1993.

That somber tradition dates back decades. Much of it — like who carries the casket into the court and how long a body lies in repose — is determined by the family. The body of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, for example, was carried into the court in 2005 by his former clerks as well as by John Roberts, who at the time had been nominated by President George W. Bush for a place on the Supreme Court bench.

Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee John Roberts, second from right, joins other former law clerks of the late Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist as they carry his coffin into the Supreme Court in Sept. 2005.
Dennis Brack / Bloomberg via Getty Images
Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee John Roberts, second from right, joins other former law clerks of the late Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist as they carry his coffin into the Supreme Court in Sept. 2005.

The only justice to be granted a state funeral by Congress was William Howard Taft, who was chief justice from 1921 to 1930 after serving as president from 1909 to 1913. Taft lay in state at the Capitol rotunda.

Supreme Court Justices pay their respects in front of the casket of former Justice Warren E. Burger in 1995. From the left are Justices William Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, Mrs. Lewis Powell, wife of a retired justice, Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Joyce Naltchayan / AFP/Getty Images
Supreme Court Justices pay their respects in front of the casket of former Justice Warren E. Burger in 1995. From the left are Justices William Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, Mrs. Lewis Powell, wife of a retired justice, Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Whether there or at the Supreme Court, many of the caskets have been placed on the Lincoln catafalque, a platform constructed to hold Abraham Lincoln's casket in April of 1865.

Former law clerks of retired Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun stand vigil near the casket of Blackmun as his body lies in repose atop the Lincoln Catafalque in the Great Hall of the court in March 1999.
Richard Ellis / Getty Images
Former law clerks of retired Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun stand vigil near the casket of Blackmun as his body lies in repose atop the Lincoln Catafalque in the Great Hall of the court in March 1999.

According to the Architect of the Capitol, the catafalque was used in the ceremonies for Justices Chase (1873), Earl Warren (1974), Thurgood Marshall (1993), Warren Burger (1995), William Brennan Jr. (1997), Harry Blackmun (1999) and Rehnquist (2005).

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Past and present members of the Supreme Court, right, line the stairs as the coffin of retired Chief Justice Warren Burger is carried into the Court on in June 1995.
Joe Marquette / AP
Past and present members of the Supreme Court, right, line the stairs as the coffin of retired Chief Justice Warren Burger is carried into the Court on in June 1995.