Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead on Saturday on a luxury ranch in West Texas. He was 79.
The US Marshals Service in Washington confirmed Scalia's death, according to the Associated Press. Spokeswoman Donna Sellers said Scalia was found dead Saturday morning when he did not appear for breakfast.
The San Antonio Express News, a local Texas news outlet, was the first to report Scalia's death, quoting US District Judge Fred Biery who said he was one of the first to find out that the justice had died. "It happened on a ranch out near Marfa," Biery said. "As far as the details, I think it's pretty vague right now as to how."
A unidentified federal official told the paper that Scalia appeared to have died from natural causes, and that so far there was no evidence of any foul play. The Presidio County sheriff, the FBI, and the US Marshall Service are reportedly investigating Scalia's death.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement soon after reports of Scalia's death.
"Justice Antonin Scalia was a man of God, a patriot and an unwavering defender of the written Constitution and the Rule of Law," Abbott wrote. "He was the solid rock who turned away so many attempts to depart from and distort the Constitution."
Scalia was nominated to the US Supreme Court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, which made him the longest serving justice.
The Supreme Court has two major cases before it. On March 2, they will rule on an abortion case for the first time in 20 years. The justices will decide whether women have a constitutional right to end a pregnancy, and whether Texas state abortion laws place an "undue burden" on that right.
The court will also rule on Obama's executive order which would grant quasi-legal status and work permits for up to five million people who entered the US illegally as children or have children who are American citizens.
Scalia was a staunch opponent of abortion and a vocal critic of President Barack Obama's immigration policy.
Republican frontrunner Donald Trump tweeted that Scalia's death presented "a massive setback for the Conservative movement." The billionaire real-estate mogul clashed with Scalia last year over the justice's comments questioning the efficacy of affirmative action. Trump said he thought Scalia's comments were "very tough to the African-American community."
Ted Cruz wrote in a tweet that Scalia was "an American hero, adding that the US Senate should ensure that the next President, rather than Obama, nominates a replacement.
The totally unexpected loss of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is a massive setback for the Conservative movement and our COUNTRY!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 13, 2016
Justice Scalia was an American hero. We owe it to him, & the Nation, for the Senate to ensure that the next President names his replacement.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) February 13, 2016
Democratic presidential candidate and US Sen. Bernie Sanders said his thoughts and prayers were with those who mourn Scalia's passing.
"While I differed with Justice Scalia's views and jurisprudence, he was a brilliant, colorful, and outspoken member of the Supreme Court," he said.
A spokesman for Nevada Sen. Harry Reid said, ""Failing to fill this vacancy would be a shameful abdication of one of the Senate's most essential Constitutional responsibilities."
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