By Jack Fink

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DALLAS (CBS11) – Dallas Attorney Jim Ho was just as shocked as everyone else by the news U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly in Texas this weekend.

Ho says, “Justice Scalia’s passing came out of nowhere.”

But Ho got to experience the nation’s highest court as few can.

He fondly remembers his year there as a clerk from 2005 to 2006.

Even though he worked with Justice Clarence Thomas, he still smiles about a lunch he and his fellow clerks had with Justice Scalia, who was known for his intellectual opinions and sharp wit.

Ho says, “We were just rolling in laughter and he actually stopped at one moment, paused, and said you see, this is why I write my dissents after lunch.”

Besides being a clerk, Ho argued before the Supreme Court in 2010 on behalf of the state of Texas as Solicitor General. “The amazing thing there is you’re actually very close to the court when you’re arguing. You’re very, very close.”

A portrait of him arguing before eight of the nine Justices hangs in his Dallas office.

Jim Ho before the U.S. Supreme Court portrait. (photo: Jack Fink - CBS11)

Jim Ho before the U.S. Supreme Court portrait. (photo: Jack Fink – CBS11)

Justice Elena Kagan had recused herself in that case.

The high court ruled in Ho’s and Texas’ favor upholding its sovereignty rights against the federal government in a religious liberty case.

The high court decision reversed a lower court ruling.

Before that, Ho won another case on behalf of Texas before the Supreme Court.

It was a death penalty case, but Ho did so without having to argue before the Justices.

Ho had succeeded now Texas Senator and Presidential candidate Ted Cruz as Solicitor General.

Ho says, “I don’t think there’s anything more daunting than arguing before the Supreme Court of the United States, and Justice Scalia is one of the biggest reasons why. If there is any weakness in your position, Justice Scalia is likely to find it.”

Ho says he and a generation of lawyers and judges learned a lot from Scalia. “It’s hard to imagine anyone having a more profound effect on our legal system than Justice Scalia.”

While he was a clerk at the Supreme Court, there was another somber time: Then Chief Justice William Rehnquist died.

Former President George W. Bush, who had nominated John Roberts to succeed a retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, withdrew the nomination, and instead nominated Roberts to be Chief Justice.

He was approved, and Samuel Alito, Jr. would later succeed O’Connor, the first female Justice on the high court.

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