Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the longest active judge on the nation's highest court, died Saturday morning at a private residence in the Big Bend area of South Texas. He was age 79.
It is believed that Scalia died of natural causes.
"Scalia was a larger than life presence on the bench," President Barack Obama said Saturday evening. "He was a brilliant legal mind with an energetic style, a 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 for being one of the most consequential judges."
Scalia joined the nation's highest court in 1986 when he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. Scalia has been the longest active judge since 2010.
"I am saddened to report that our colleague Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away," SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts said on behalf of the high court. "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. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife Maureen and his family."
Scalia leaves behind a court with four justices appointed by Democrats, and four appointed by Republicans. His death will likely spark a fierce battle by Obama and the Republican-held U.S. Senate to appoint a justice before the president's term expires in January.
Obama said during his prepared remarks Saturday evening that he intends to replace Scalia with a nominee of his choosing.
"I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibility to nominate a successor in due time. There will be plenty of time for me to do so and the Senate the fulfill its responsibility," Obama said.
Scalia dissented in key recent decisions, such as the 2015 ruling that opened the door for legalized gay marriage. He also dissented on rulings that found Obama's Affordable Healthcare Act constitutional.
On the flip side, Scalia was in the majority in the 2000 case Bush v Gore, which effectively ended Al Gore's chances of becoming president. He was also in the majority of DC vs Heller, which helped expand gun rights, and stunted those in support of gun control.
"Justice Antonin Scalia was a man of God, a patriot, and an unwavering defender of the written Constitution and the Rule of Law," Texas Governor Greg Abbott said. "He was the solid rock who turned away so many attempts to depart from and distort the Constitution. His fierce loyalty to the Constitution set an unmatched example, not just for judges and lawyers, but for all Americans."
Scalia was born in Trenton, N.J. in 1936. He went on to have nine children.
Before joining the Supreme Court in 1986, he was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1982.
Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs.