The body of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was taken to an El Paso airport Sunday afternoon and was flown to Virginia after it was determined he died of ‘natural causes’.
Scalia’s body was taken from the Sunset Funeral Homes Sunday afternoon after his family decided a private autopsy wasn’t necessary and requested his remains be flown as soon as possible.
John Poindexter, who found the 79-year-old Justice dead in his room in the El Presidente suite at the Cibolo Creek Ranch in Texas, said Scalia looked peaceful.
‘We discovered the judge in bed, a pillow over his head. His bed clothes were unwrinkled. He was lying very restfully,’ Poindexter, the owner of the ranch, said.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died of a heart attack, according to officials. A West Texas judge said his cause of death will be listed under the technical term, myocardial infarction
A hearse, accompanied by US Marshals, transported Scalia’s body from the Sunset Funeral Home to the El Paso International Airport, where it departed in a private plane to Virginia around 8pm
Poindexter first went to Scalia’s room at 8.30am on Saturday, but the door was locked and his knocks went unanswered.
He returned three hours later with a friend of Scalia’s, who had come with him from Washington DC to the ranch.
Poindexter said Scalia was ‘stone cold’ and did not have a pulse. After the owner and Scalia’s friend called 911, local authorities and several US Marshals arrived at the ranch.
‘The judge…was in complete repose. He was very peaceful in the bed,’ Poindexter told NBC News.
‘He had obviously passed away with no difficulty at all in the middle of the night.’
‘Among the most commonly said things yesterday was, if this had to happen, and we’re really sad that it did, but if it had to happen, it happened in the very best of circumstances.
‘He seemed to enjoy himself greatly.’
The ‘El Presidente’ suite at the Cibolo Creek Ranch, where Scalia’s body was found Saturday morning. John Poindexter, the ranch’s owner, said the judge was ‘lying very restfully’ when he was discovered
‘The judge…was in complete repose. He was very peaceful in the bed,’ Poindexter said. ‘He had obviously passed away with no difficulty at all in the middle of the night’
At dinner that night Scalia was his ‘usual, personal self’ but seemed tired and at about 9pm said he wanted to get some sleep after ‘a long day and a long week’, Poindexter told My San Antonio.
Scalia’s personal physician and sheriff’s investigators said there were so signs of foul play and concluded he had died of natural causes.
Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara, who pronounced Scalia dead, said his death certificate will say the cause of death was natural and that he died of a heart attack, she told ABC News.
She said Scalia’s doctor in Washington DC told her the Justice had been sick last week but was at the office Wednesday and Thursday before departing for his quail hunting trip on Friday.
Guevara was out of town and said she planned to drive to the ranch but was told by a US Marshal, who was with Scalia’s body, that it was unnecessary to do so.
She asked the US Marshals if there were any signs of foul play and they assured her ‘absolutely not’, according to The Washington Post.
Guevara then talked to Scalia’s personal physician in DC before she officially pronounced him dead and declined to order an inquest.
Under Texas law it is legal for a justice of the peace to declare someone dead without seeing the body.
US marshals accompanied a hearse carrying Scalia’s body to the airport, where it was then transported to a private plane that departed for Virginia around 8pm.
Poindexter (pictured) said Scalia had been surrounded by some of his closest friends and admirers on the night before his death
There’s no word on when a funeral or a service will be held. However, a makeshift memorial was set up on the steps to the Supreme Court on Sunday morning.
Tourists and well-wishers laid down flowers to mark his passing.
President Barack Obama ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at the high court, where Scalia served for three decades, and other federal buildings throughout the nation and US embassies and military installations throughout the world.
Scalia was on the bench for 29 years and would have been 80 next month. He leaves behind his wife of 55 years, Maureen, as well as their nine children and 28 grandchildren.
As politicians and legal minds around the world paid tribute to the man known for his controversial decisions and unwavering opinions, a political battle already began heating up on Capitol Hill.
At issue is whether Obama, in his last year in office, should make a nomination and if the Republican-led Senate will confirm that choice in an election year.
As Obama pledged he would make a nomination ‘in due time’, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Scalia’s vacant seat should not be filled until the next president is elected.
It was a sentiment echoed by GOP presidential hopefuls Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
The Constitution gives the Senate ‘advice and consent’ powers over a presidential nomination to the Supreme Court.
Flowers are seen in front of the Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. after the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia
An American flag flies at half mast at the U.S. Supreme Court, 24 hours after Justice Scalia’s passing
Cruz told NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ that the GOP-controlled Senate is doing its job.
‘We’re advising that a lame-duck president in an election year is not going to be able to tip the balance of the Supreme Court,’ Cruz said.
But the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would hold hearings on a nominee, said it would be ‘sheer dereliction of duty for the Senate not to have a hearing [or] a vote.’
Democratic Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy told CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ that he believes McConnell is ‘making a terrible mistake’ and is ‘certainly ignoring the Constitution’.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has been left split with four Democratic and Republican appointees each.
Now a number of pending cases on abortion, immigration and affirmative action, among others, could be left with a 4-4 tie with the loss of conservative Scalia to tip the majority.
The court faces a crowded docket of politically charged cases that were certain to resonate in the presidential campaign on issues such as immigration, abortion, affirmative action, labor unions and Obama’s health care law.
Decisions were expected in late spring and early summer on whether the president could shield up to five million immigrants living in the United States illegally from deportation.
In some cases a tie will merely leave in place decisions that have already been set by lower courts.
This would be the case in Whole Women’s Health v Cole, upholding a Texas law that has closed half of the state’s abortion clinics in the last three years.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the state’s regulations, but a tie in the Supreme Court would be a blow to anti-abortion advocates hoping for a broader ruling that could set the precedent for restrictions across the country.
A 4-4 tie would also uphold the federal court’s ban on Obama’s 2014 executive action to protect four million undocumented immigrants from deportation.
But it would not allow the Court to put broader limits on the authority of the president, a possibility they discussed in January, according to Bloomberg.
Unlike with the abortion and immigration cases, Scalia’s absence will make a tie impossible in an upcoming affirmative action decision.
Scalia (front, second from left) was nominated to the US Supreme Court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan and is the longest-serving justice on the Court
Justice Scalia was surrounded by friends and admirers at a retreat at the Cibolo Creek Ranch before he died
I AM MOURNING THIS REMARKABLE MAN’: OBAMA REMEMBERS SCALIA
Antonin Nino Scalia was larger than life, a brilliant legal mind with an energetic style, incisive wit and colorful opinions.
He influenced a generation of judges, lawyers and students and profoundly shaped the legal landscape. He will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court.
Justice Scalia dedicated his life to the cornerstone of our democracy, the rule of law.
Tonight we honor his extraordinary service to our nation, and remember one of the towering legal figures of our time.
Antonin Scalia was born in Trenton, New Jersey to an Italian immigrant family. After graduating from Georgetown University and Harvard law school, he worked at a law firm and taught law before entering a life of public service.
He rose from assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Consul to the judge on the DC Circuit Court to Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
A devout Catholic, he was the proud father of nine children and the grandfather to many loving grandchildren. A devout hunter, and a passion for opera music, which he shared with Ruth Badger Ginsburg
Tonight we join his fellow justices in mourning this remarkable man.
Obviously today is a day to remember Justice Scalia’s legacy. I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to name a successor in due time, and there will be plenty of time for me to do so and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote.
These are responsibilities that I take seriously as should everyone. They are bigger than any one party, they are about our democracy, they are about the institution to which Justice Scalia dedicated his professional life and making sure it continues to function as the beacon of justice that our founders envisioned.
At this moment we most of all want to think about his family, and Michelle and I join the nation in sending our deepest sympathies to Justice Scalia’s wife Maureen and their loving family – a beautiful symbol of a life well lived. We thank them for sharing Scalia with our country.
President Obama said Scalia was ‘larger than life’ and a great legal mind that inspired a generation of judges