Chief Justice John Roberts has said the words that best describe the late judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg are “tough, brave, a fighter, a winner” but also “thoughtful, careful, compassionate, honest”.
He spoke during a private ceremony in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Afterwards, Ms Ginsburg’s flag-draped casket was placed at the top of the court’s front steps so the public can pay their respects to the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
Thousands of people are expected to pay tribute throughout the day to the women’s rights champion, who died last week at 87.
“Her voice in court and in our conference room was soft but when she spoke people listened,” Mr Roberts said
Ms Ginsburg’s casket arrived at the court at 9.30am local time and was carried into the court’s Great Hall, past her former law clerks who lined the steps.
Inside, the court’s remaining eight justices, all of them wearing masks, were together for the first time since the building was closed in March and they resorted to meetings by telephone.
Because of the pandemic, chairs for the justices were spaced apart.
Ms Ginsburg will lie in repose for two days at the court where she served for 27 years and, before that, argued six cases for gender equality in the 1970s.
Her casket will be on public view from 11am to 10pm on Wednesday and 9am to 10pm on Thursday.
Nearly 500 members of the public gathered to pay their respects on Wednesday morning.
Since her death on Friday evening, people have been leaving flowers, notes, placards and all manner of paraphernalia outside the court in tribute to the judge who became known in her final years as the Notorious RBG.
Court workers cleared away the items and cleaned the court plaza pavement in advance of Wednesday’s ceremony.
Inside, the entrance to the courtroom, along with Ms Ginsburg’s chair and place on the bench next to Mr Roberts, have been draped in black, a long-standing court custom.
On Friday, she will lie in state at the Capitol, the first woman to do so and only the second Supreme Court justice after William Howard Taft, who was also president.
Rosa Parks, a private citizen as opposed to a government official, is the only woman who has lain in honour at the Capitol.
Ms Ginsburg will be buried beside her husband Martin, who died in 2010, in a private ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery next week.
She is survived by a son and a daughter, four grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
Only Chief Justice Roger Taney, who died in October 1864, died closer to a presidential election