WASHINGTON — Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, the outspoken leader of the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc, was found dead at a Texas ranch Saturday morning, the San Antonio Express News reported on its website.
The newspaper quoted U.S. District Judge Fred Biery, who said he had been told of the death.
Scalia, 79, was a guest at the resort in West Texas, the Cibolo Creek Ranch, reportedly as part of a private group of about 40 people. When he didn’t appear for breakfast Saturday, someone went to his room and found a body.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statement Saturday afternoon extending condolences to Scalia’s family. He called the justice “the solid rock who turned away so many attempts to depart from and distort the Constitution.”
Biery told the newspaper he had few details about the death. “My reaction is it’s very unfortunate,” he said. “It’s unfortunate with any death, and politically in the presidential cycle we’re in, my educated guess is nothing will happen until the next president is elected.”
President Obama could nominate a candidate to fill the vacancy, but confirmation by the Republican-controlled Senate in an election year would be difficult.
Over nearly three decades on the high court, Scalia’s sharp intellect and acerbic opinions made him a hero to conservatives and a target for liberals. Scalia was appointed by Reagan in 1986.