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Supreme Court Holds First Session After Justice Scalia's Death

Chief Justice John Roberts began Monday's Supreme Court session — the first since Antonin Scalia's death — with a tribute to the former Justice.
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Chief Justice John Roberts began Monday's Supreme Court session — the first since Antonin Scalia's death — with a tribute.

Roberts noted that the black drapery on Scalia's chair and his spot on the bench "signifies a period of mourning the loss of our friend and colleague." The seat will remain draped for roughly the next month.

Image: Justice Scalia Tribute Sketches 01
Sketch shows Chief Justice Roberts delivering tribute to late Justice Scalia on Feb. 22, 2016.Art Lien

It was a somber and emotional return to business for the court which is expected to hear 10 cases over the next two weeks, include a challenge to restrictions on Texas abortion clinics on March 2. Scalia's unexpected death earlier this month brought the future of the court's ideological makeup into sharp relief as a partisan showdown over his replacement on the bench looms.

Monday, however, was a day of reflection for the court.

Related: Funeral For SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia Focusing on His Faith, Service

"His love of knowledge drew him to academia,” and then into life in the law, Roberts said.

Roberts noted — to laughter in the courtroom — that Scalia "argued his first and only case before the Supreme Court in 1976. He prevailed, establishing a perfect record before this court."

Scalia was the 103 justice on the court and wrote 292 majority opinions.

"He was also known on occasion to dissent," Roberts joked.

When President Barack Obama's Afforable Care Act was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2015, Scalia struck back at the majority's ruling as "pure applesauce" and "interpretive jiggery-pokery."

Roberts called Scalia, "Our man for all seasons, and we will miss him beyond measure."

The black drapery at Scalia's spot on the bench will remain for 30 days. After that, the justices will shift around to establish the new order of seniority, with Anthony Kennedy as the senior associate justice.

A spot will remain open at the end of the bench for the next justice to occupy, once nominated and confirmed.