Clay Dubberly, Editor-in-Chief
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s long legacy of influential legislation, visionary theories and eloquent writing came to an end this Saturday, Feb. 13, when the owner of the ranch he was staying at discovered him dead.
“We discovered the judge in bed, a pillow over his head. His bed clothes were unwrinkled,” Houston businessman and ranch owner John Poindexter recalled. “He was lying very restfully. It looked like he had not quite awakened from a nap.”
In 1986, Scalia was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan. He was confirmed with a vote of 98-0 by a Republican-controlled Senate.
At that time, he was serving as a professor at the University of Chicago, and had served four years as a judge at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said in a statement. “He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues.”
Judge Richard A. Posner referred to Scalia as “the most influential justice of the last quarter-century.” Scalia became the longest-serving member in the Supreme Court when Justice John Paul Stevens retired in 2010.
Scalia enjoyed opera, poker and hunting; his friends referred to him fondly as “Nino.”
Immediately following his death, conflicting reports were distributed over media outlets concerning the manner in which he died. After his body was discovered, it took several hours to find a justice of the peace, and once one was found, Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara Scalia pronounced Scalia dead of natural causes before an autopsy had taken place.
According to a manager at the El Paso funeral home where Scalia’s body was taken, his family relayed they didn’t want an autopsy conducted.
Some conspiracy theorists, including Alex Jones of InfoWars, suggested that some foul play might have taken place.
Another reason for the circulation of misinformation had to do with Guevara saying Scalia had a “myocardial infarction,” which he later clarified to mean that Scalia’s heart had simply stopped. “He died of natural causes,” Guevara said.
Whatever the case, Scalia’s death is expected to have a profound impact on future of the justice system in the U.S.
President Obama announced that he will send a new nomination to replace Scalia in the coming months, although Senate Republicans seemed to have suggested that they would rather wait until Obama finished his last term for a new appointee.
Cases this year which have dealt with the limits of abortion rights, immigration and redistricting have been decided with a 5-4 votes. Scalia’s absence means that many votes could be held at 4-4, which would essentially make it as if the vote had never taken place.
The New York Times compiled a list of potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees, most of which are alumni of Ivy League law schools, such as Merrick B. Garland, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals, or Patricia Ann Millet, also a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Amidst all the chaos, one thing is clear: America has lost a stalwart defender of the constitution, who was respected and loved by his colleagues and the nation alike. Anton Scalia died at peace, in a deluxe ranch suite called “El Presidente” in Texas, doing what he loved most.
Scalia, a fervent Catholic, was given his last rites by a Roman Catholic Priest before he passed away.
On Sunday, his funeral arrangements were still unclear.