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Supreme Court Justice Scalia dies during hunting trip in Marfa

Published On: Feb 13 2016 03:40:36 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 14 2016 05:39:22 PM CST

Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court Justice, found dead at age 70

EL PASO -

UPDATE SUNDAY 4:39 P.M: The body of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has been transported from Sunset Funeral Homes in Northeast El Paso to an airport. 

UPDATE SUNDAY 2 PM: The Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara told Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA that the death certificate will list a heart attack as the official cause of death for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

UPDATE:  U.S. Marshals, along with DPS officials are escorting the body of late Justice Antonin Scalia to Sunset Funeral Home. The funeral home was selected by his family, according to the funeral director there. He tells us Scalia will be there until tomorrow while they prepare and embalm the body.

ABC-7 has confirmed the body of the late Justice Antonin Scalia will be delivered to Sunset Funeral Home in northeast El Paso sometime early Sunday morning. It will then be prepared for the trip back to Washington. The body will be driven, not flown, from Marfa, Texas.

EL PASO -- An El Paso source close to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia tells ABC-7 that the 79-year-old died in his sleep last night after a day of quail hunting at Cibolo Creek Ranch outside of Marfa, Texas.

The Justice did not report feeling ill and retired to his room after dinner. The source, who was traveling with Scalia, told ABC-7 a priest was summoned to administer last rites. 

El Paso Catholic Diocese Spokeswoman Elizabeth O'Hara tells ABC-7 Catholic Priest Mike Alcuino, in  Presidio, was called to the ranch, where he administered Justice Scalia's last rites Saturday afternoon.

Scalia was the longest-serving Justice on the current Supreme Court at the time of his death. He was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, and was unanimously confirmed without a nomination fight to become the Court's first Italian-American justice.

Scalia and his wife, Maureen, had nine children.  Born in Trenton, New Jersey March 11, 1936, he was less than a month from his eightieth birthday.

The issue of his replacement is virtually certain to a major political story during a presidential election year.   ABC-7 managing editor Eric Huseby said, "Republican senators will be under enormous pressure from their donors and electoral base to refuse to confirm an appointment from President Obama that would tip the balance of the Court to a 5-4 majority of Democratic appointees.  And the President will surely do all he can to make that position as politically unpalatable and costly as possible."

Tom Goldstein, who writes about the Supreme Court for SCOTUSBLOG.com doubted that confirmation before the election is possible.  "Theoretically, that process could conclude before the election," he wrote Saturday.  "But realistically, it cannot absent essentially a consensus nominee - and probably not even then, given the stakes. " 

Scalia's legacy is enormous.  CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said Scalia was one of the "handful of most influential Supreme Court justices in history."  He was the Court's leading originalist, fiercely dedicated to the idea that the meaning of the words in the Constitution are fixed based on the framers' understanding at the time they were drafted, and not subject to reinterpretation in later times.

He argued passionately against the contemporary idea of a “living Constitution" that evolves and changes with the times.

“The Constitution is not an organism. It’s a legal text,” Scalia was quoted as saying in a recent Bloomberg Business article. “It means today what it meant when it was adopted.” 

His wit, sarcasm and passion for intellectual battle were legendary as well.  In his dissent against last year's landmark ruling affirming the right to same-sex marriage, he concluded a passage questioning the majority assertion that marriage promotes a freedom of intimacy by suggesting that marriage has historically tended to restrict options for intimacy, and suggesting that people, "Ask the nearest hippie."

Here is the complete text of a statement issued by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.:

"On behalf of the Court and retired Justices, I am saddened to report that our colleague Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away.  He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues.  His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served.  We extend our deepest condolences to his wife Maureen and his family."

Here is the complete text of a statement issued by Texas Governor Greg Abbott:

"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 for 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."

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