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EKU Faculty Member Remembers a Fallen Supreme Court Justice

EKU Faculty Member Remembers a Fallen Supreme Court Justice

When Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court of the United States passed away unexpectedly on February 13, 2016 at a West Texas ranch, many Americans were saddened and surprised.  As the leader of his conservative colleagues on the bench and equipped with a large personality, Justice Scalia was well-known to even the casual observers of the Supreme Court.

In 2008 and 2009, Eastern Kentucky University’s David Fifer, Lab Manager for the Emergency Medical Care program, served as one of nine Marshal’s Aide to the Supreme Court.  A position that would offer him a rare, behind the scenes experience with the Justices that most could only imagine.

Fifer remembers Justice Scalia as “genial” and someone he got to know as more than just a distant public figure.  “He was someone that I saw regularly for about a year of my life and I was sad to hear of his passing.”

As a Marshal’s Aide, Fifer interacted with all the Justices regularly andserved in a ceremonial and administrative “aide-at-large” role to the Court, the Chief Justice, and the Associate Justices.  When Court was in session, “I assisted them with the donning of their robes, helping to serve them meals, and assisting them in the courtroom and during ceremonial events,” said Fifer. 

Additionally, he served as a doorkeeper, usher, and sat behind the bench within an arm’s reach of the Justices to assist them with whatever they might need. He also delivered the morning mail, helped prepare their meals, conducted tours, operated the elevators for official functions, kept the motor pool clean, and did all sort of other miscellaneous tasks to keep the Court running.

While his official duties didn’t include emergency response, Fifer was often assigned to the Supreme Court medical unit to help with certain emergency medical preparedness tasks because of his EMS background and training as an undergraduate student in the EMC program at EKU.  “Most mornings before oral arguments I would retrieve emergency medical supplies from the court clinic and position them behind the bench,” he said.  “I also happened to be on the court plaza when a visitor suffered a heart attack and tumbled down the court’s iconic front steps, and assisted the Court’s full-time emergency medical staff in dealing with that.”

Fifer’s time in Washington, D.C. was filled with many special memories, but perhaps the one that is his most unforgettable came during President Barak Obama’s first inauguration.  “After a long night spent sleeping at the Court and a long morning helping with various functions, I stepped out of the front doors of the Court, at the top of those iconic steps, and watched President Bush board Marine One and lift off from the Capitol directly across from me.  It seemed like I could have touched the helicopter as it thundered into the air. That was pretty unforgettable.”

Published on March 01, 2016

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