Story highlights

Antonin Scalia, with 25 years on the high court, is currently the senior associate justice

He is recognized with a brief statement as the court begins its 2011-12 term

He follows the tribute by living up to his reputation of being an active questioner of attorneys

Washington CNN —  

The Supreme Court kicked off its new term on Monday with a brief salute to the justice who has currently been on the bench the longest.

Justice Antonin Scalia is marking his 25th year on the high court, and is the senior associate justice.

Chief Justice John Roberts read a brief statement from the bench for the occasion, soon after the court gathered for its first public session.

Roberts noted his colleague had been nominated in 1986, “and the place hasn’t been the same since,” bringing wide smiles to the other justices. Scalia seemed touched by the praise, which included Roberts thanking him for his “distinguished service.” No other justices spoke during the tribute.

Scalia is among the busiest of questioners during the oral arguments and Monday’s first appeal of the term was no exception. He held his fire for the first half-hour, but then repeatedly tossed questions and commentary at attorneys for both sides in a case over Medicaid funding.

His outgoing personality and sharply written opinions have made him among the most recognizable of justices, and a particular favorite of conservative activists, scholars, and lawmakers. He was named to the high court by President Ronald Reagan, after previous work as an appeals court judge, a government and private lawyer, and a law professor.