Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a tart-tongued champion of conservative interpretation of the Constitution, has died at a West Texas ranch resort, government officials said Saturday.
“While our opinions on the law and jurisprudence were frequently at odds, he was steadfast and true to his beliefs during his tenure,” the number-two Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, said in a statement. “My thoughts are with his family and loved ones at this time.
The news was first reported by mysanantonio.com , which cited federal officials.
Scalia, who was 79, was the longest-serving justice on the high court. His death is sure to trigger a pitched political battle in Washington, with President Obama likely to nominate a successor before the November elections.
“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 in a statement on his official web site. “We mourn his passing, and we pray that his successor on the Supreme Court will take his place as a champion for the written Constitution and the Rule of Law.”
Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, one of the contenders for the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016, called Scalia “one of the greatest justices in history.” Cruz, who served as a Supreme Court clerk, said Scalia “was an unrelenting defender of religious liberty, free speech, federalism, the constitutional separation of powers, and private property rights. All liberty-loving Americans should be in mourning.”
Donald Trump, one of Cruz’s rivals, tweeted that the “totally unexpected loss” was a “massive setback for the Conservative movement and our country.”