Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead in Texas on Saturday, according to multiple reports.
The office of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statement on Scalia’s death late Saturday afternoon.
“Justice Antonin Scalia was a man of God, a patriot, and an unwavering defender of the written Constitution and the Rule of Law. He was the solid rock who turned away so many attempts to depart from and distort the Constitution,” Abbott said in the statement.
The US Marshall’s Service confirmed Scalia’s death later Saturday.
KVIA reported that Scalia “did not report feeling ill … and retired to his room after dinner” Friday night.
Scalia was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. He was the longest-serving Justice on the current Supreme Court bench.
Scalia is survived by his wife, Maureen, and their nine children.
Reacting to the news of Scalia’s death, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said Scalia was one of the “handful of most influential Supreme Court justices in history.”
“Only a handful have enormous personal legacies,” he said, and Scalia was one of them. “His departure leaves a huge political fight in the offing.”
In a statement, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said, “As liberals and conservatives alike would agree, through his powerful and persuasive opinions, Justice Scalia fundamentally changed how courts interpret the Constitution … returning focus to the original meaning … after decades of judicial activism.”
Cruz, who is a contender in the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, added that “Scalia’s three decades on the Court was one of President Reagan’s most consequential legacies.”
Commenting to The New York Times, Chief Justice John Roberts applauded Scalia’s “transformative legal theories,” and “outsize personality,” and called him a “leader of the conservative intellectual renaissance.”
Here’s the full statement from Abbott’s office:
Justice Antonin Scalia was a man of God, a patriot, and an unwavering defender of the written Constitution and the Rule of Law. 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. We mourn his passing, and we pray that his successor on the Supreme Court will take his place as a champion of the written Constitution and the rule of law. Cecilia and I extend our deepest condolences to his family, and we will keep them in our thoughts and prayers.
President Obama, who was travelling in California on Saturday offered his condolences. A full statement from the White House was expected later. Scalia’s replacement would be Obama’s third appointment to the Supreme Court, according to Reuters.
The court has several major upcoming cases to consider, involving matters of abortion, voting rights, and immigration, among others.