Reports out of Texas are that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has been found dead of natural causes at a luxury resort on the west side of the state. Justice Scalia is one of four pro-life conservatives among the nine justices currently serving.
The San Antonio Express-News reported the story:
Associate Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead of apparent natural causes Saturday on a luxury resort in West Texas, federal officials said.
Scalia, 79, was a guest at the Cibolo Creek Ranch, a resort in the Big Bend region south of Marfa.
According to a report, Scalia arrived at the ranch on Friday and attended a private party with about 40 people. When he did not appear for breakfast, a person associated with the ranch went to his room and found a body.
Chief U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, of the Western Judicial District of Texas, was notified about the death from the U.S. Marshals Service.
U.S. District Judge Fred Biery said he was among those notified about Scalia's death.
"I was told it was this morning," Biery said of Scalia's death. "It happened on a ranch out near Marfa. As far as the details, I think it's pretty vague right now as to how," he said. "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."
El Paso news station KVIA reported that Justice Scalia had spent Friday hunting quail on the property at the Cibolo Creek Ranch. He returned to his room after dinner, but had not complained of feeling unwell.
A spokesperson for the Diocese of El Paso reported that Fr. Miguel Alcuino, pastor of Santa Teresa Catholic parish in Presidio, was sent to administer the Last Rites on Saturday afternoon.
Scalia has been termed an "originalist" on the Court for his interpretation of law according to the intent of the nation's founders. A faithful Catholic, he has been a staunch opponent of abortion, insisting that there is no "right" to an abortion in the Constitution and that Roe v. Wade should be overturned. In a 2011 interview with California Lawyer, Scalia challenged those who support access to abortion: "You want a right to abortion? There’s nothing in the Constitution about that. But that doesn’t mean you cannot prohibit it."
In the same interview, he offered advice to those who wanted to make abortion legal. "Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law." he said. "That’s what democracy is all about. It’s not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society."
Court watchers will no doubt be concerned at the loss of a conservative justice as the Court prepares to hear a pivotal pro-life case. On March 23, the Court will hear oral arguments in the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, who refuse to violate their beliefs by implementing the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate. The Sisters have claimed that the Obama Administration's requirement imposes a burden on their free exercise of religion, even with the proposed "accommodation" which would allow them to pay for health care coverage through an independent third party carrier.
With his wife Maureen, Justice Scalia fathered nine children. Their sixth child, Paul David, is a Catholic priest who currently serves as the bishop's Delegate for Clergy in the Diocese of Arlington. Prior to that appointment, Father Paul served as pastor of Saint John the Beloved in Arlington, VA.