MARFA, Texas — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead on Saturday at a ranch in Texas where he was staying for a hunting excursion over the weekend.
The 79-year-old justice had been quail hunting at Cibolo Creek Ranch near Marfa on Friday and retreated to his room after dinner. When he did not appear at breakfast in the morning, a worker went to his room and found his body. It is believed that he died in his sleep of natural causes.
Scalia, appointed in 1986 by then-President Ronald Reagan, was the longest-serving justice on the current Supreme Court.
“I am saddened to report that our colleague Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement. “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.”
Scalia had been known for his sharp wit, love of the Constitution and scathing dissents, such as his strongly-worded rebuke of the majority in last June’s Obergefell v. Hodges “gay marriage” opinion.
“[W]hat really astounds is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial putsch,” he wrote. “The five justices who compose today’s majority are entirely comfortable concluding that every state violated the Constitution for all of the 135 years between the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification and Massachusetts’ permitting of same-sex marriages in 2003.”
In 2003, Scalia dissented from the majority rule in Lawrence v. Texas, in which the court, comprised of largely Republican-appointed justices, struck down the anti-sodomy law of the state of Texas.
“[The anti-sodomy law] undoubtedly imposes constraints on liberty,” he wrote in his dissenting opinion. “So do laws prohibiting prostitution, recreational use of heroin, and, for that matter, working more than 60 hours per week in a bakery. … State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality and obscenity [are now] called into question [because of this ruling].”
In his 1992 dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, he wrote, “The states may, if they wish, permit abortion on demand, but the Constitution does not require them to do so. The permissibility of abortion, and the limitations upon it, are to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting.”
Just last month, while giving a speech in Louisiana, Scalia opined that God has blessed America because the nation has recognized His providence.
“I think one of the reasons God has been good to us is that we have done Him honor. Unlike the other countries of the world that do not even invoke His name we do Him honor—in presidential addresses, in Thanksgiving proclamations and in many other ways,” he said.
However, Scalia has also noted during appearances that his Roman Catholic faith does not influence his decisions.
“I try mightily to prevent my religious views or my political views or my philosophical views from affecting my interpretation of the laws, which is what my job is about,” he said in 2002.
“They can make me leave the bench if I find that I’m enmeshed in an immoral operation, but the only one of my religious views that has anything to do with my job as a judge is the seventh commandment – thou shalt not lie,” Scalia outlined. “I try to observe that faithfully, but other than that I don’t think any of my religious views have anything to do with how I do my job as a judge.”
Scalia, a textualist, was the author of three books: “A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law,” “Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges” and “Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts.”
He and his wife Maureen had nine children. Scalia was just a month away from his 80th birthday.