Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia found dead

Posted at 3:12 PM, Feb 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-13 17:33:12-05

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the longest active judge on the nation's highest court, was found dead in his hotel room at a Texas resort Saturday morning. He was age 79.

His body was found this morning as he did not appear for a breakfast at the resort. It is believed that Scalia died of natural causes. 

"I was told it was this morning," U.S. District Judge Fred Biery said to the San Antonio Express-News. "It happened on a ranch out near Marfa. As far as the details, I think it's pretty vague right now as to how. My reaction is it's very unfortunate. It's unfortunate with any death, and politically in the presidential cycle we're in, my educated guess is nothing will happen before the next president is elected."

Scalia joined the nation's highest court in 1986 when he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. Scalia has been the longest active judge since 2010. 

Scalia leaves behind a court with four justices appointed by Democrats, and four appointed by Republicans. His death will likely spark a fierce battle by President Barack Obama and the Republican-held U.S. Senate to appoint a justice before the president's term expires in January. 

Scalia dissented in key recent decisions, such as the 2015 ruling that opened the door for legalized gay marriage. He also dissented on rulings that found Obama's Affordable Healthcare Act constitutional. 

"Justice Antonin Scalia was a man of God, a patriot, and an unwavering defender of the written Constitution and the Rule of Law," Texas Governor Greg Abbott said. "He was the solid rock who turned away so many attempts to depart from and distort the Constitution. His fierce loyalty to the Constitution set an unmatched example, not just for judges and lawyers, but for all Americans."

Scalia was born in Trenton, N.J. in 1936. He went on to have nine children. 

Before joining the Supreme Court in 1986, he was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1982.