WASHINGTON (CBS/AP) — Antonin Scalia, the influential conservative and most provocative member of the Supreme Court, has died. He was 79.
The U.S. Marshals Service in Washington confirmed Scalia’s death at a private residence in the Big Bend area of West Texas.
The service’s spokeswoman, Donna Sellers, says Scalia had retired for the evening and was found dead Saturday morning when he did not appear for breakfast.
Scalia used his keen intellect and missionary zeal in an unyielding attempt to move the court farther to the right and to get it to embrace his “originalist” view of judging after his 1986 appointment by President Ronald Reagan.
His 2008 opinion for the court in favor of gun rights was his crowning moment in more than 30 years on the bench.
He was a strong advocate for privacy in favoring restrictions on police searches and protections for defendants’ rights. But he also voted consistently to let states outlaw abortions, to allow a closer relationship between government and religion, to permit executions and to limit lawsuits.
Scalia’s impact on the court was muted by his seeming disregard for moderating his views to help build consensus.
In a 2008 interview with “60 Minutes,” he told correspondent Lesley Stahl that he believes the Constitution is an “enduring” document he wants to defend.
“It’s what did the words mean to the people who ratified the Bill of Rights or who ratified the Constitution,” Scalia said.
“But you do admit that values change? We do adapt. We move,” Stahl asked.
“That’s fine,” he answered. “And so do laws change. Because values change, legislatures abolish the death penalty, permit same-sex marriage if they want, abolish laws against homosexual conduct. That’s how the change in a society occurs. Society doesn’t change through a Constitution.”
In a statement on behalf of the Supreme Court and retired Justices, Chief Justice John Roberts called Scalia, “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,” he added.
Scalia’s replacement to the court would be President Obama’s third nomination. He previously nominated Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. CBS News Chief Legal Correspondent Jan Crawford said it is unclear whether the Republican-held Senate will entertain a nomination from Mr. Obama or wait for a new president to be elected this November.
“It could be very unlikely that President Obama that will get that nomination,” Crawford said. “This court could remain with eight justices until the next president takes office. I think that’s very unclear what will happen.”
“This vote will change the balance of the Supreme Court if a liberal is nominated,” she added.
Scalia, the son of Italian immigrants, was born in Trenton, New Jersey and raised in the Queens neighborhood of Manhattan. He attended at Georgetown University and Harvard Law School.
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