Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away in West Texas. He was 79.
Scalia was in Texas for a hunting trip at a resort. He was seen at a private party one night, but he did not appear for breakfast the next morning, prompting concern. A person with the ranch then went to check on Scalia and found his body. According to the Marshals Service, Scalia is believed to have died of natural causes, but an official cause has not beet ruled yet.
San-Antonio Express News was among the first to report the story.
Scalia served on the Court for 29 years after being appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. He was approved by the Senate unanimously as the Senate focused on the then-more controversial elevation of Justice William Rehnquist to be Chief Justice.
Since then, Scalia has been notorious for his aggressive questioning style and unabashed constitutionalist beliefs. Scalia holds the record for most concurring opinions and has written the third most dissenting opinions. His dissenting opinions are known for blistering attacks on the opinion.
The White House said that the President and First Lady extend their condolences to Scalia’s family and there would be additional reaction later. President Obama is expected to name a replacement, but that replacement could have a difficult time getting Senate confirmation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) said on Saturday evening that any appointment should wait until the next President is elected so that voters could “have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.”
Extended Supreme Court vacancies are rare and the longest dates back to the Tyler Administration in the 1840s. Several lame duck Presidents have had their Court appointments opposed though.
TKNN reached out to the office of Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA), but has not heard back as of publication. TKNN will update in the event the office responds to a request for comment.
[UPDATE, 8:41 PM]: Senator Grassley’s office has responded by saying in regards to a potential replacement, “The fact of the matter is that it’s been standard practice over the last 80 years to not confirm Supreme Court nominees during a presidential election year. Given the huge divide in the country, and the fact that this President, above all others, has made no bones about his goal to use the courts to circumvent Congress and push through his own agenda, it only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court Justice.” This initial statement is untrue as there have been seventeen Supreme Court Justices approved during a presidential election year, including Justice Anthony Kennedy whom Grassley voted for. His office has since clarified to mean a person nominated and approved during a presidential election year. This is true for modern history, but not all of American history. President Washington appointed Oliver Ellsworth to be Chief Justice in March of 1796 and Ellsworth was confirmed the following day. During the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Administration, Frank Murphy was also nominated and confirmed all in 1940, a presidential election year.