Saturday afternoon, the country ground to a halt as news broke of the death of senior Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Scalia had flown Friday to a luxury hunting resort in the Big Bend region of Texas called Cibolo Creek Ranch, as DCist and others report, attended a function with about 40 others last night, and was found dead this morning of apparent natural causes. He was 79.
The famously conservative constructionist spent his latter career on the nation's higher court arguing, often vociferously, sometimes spitefully, and always intelligently for the strict, textual interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, fighting with his more liberal colleagues over what he perceived as overstepping their roles and legislating from the bench.
In this election year, those on the left will of course need to tread lightly rather than be perceived as dancing on the man's grave, despite the enormous implications of this surprise opening on the court in the last year of President Obama's presidency and the chance to tip the balance of the court to left for years to come. Whether Congress will be able to obstruct the President from filling that seat will now be part of the national discussion, and the election, for months to come.
The SF Chronicle got a quote from U.S. District Judge Fred Biery of the Western District of Texas who said, "My reaction is it's very unfortunate. It's unfortunate with any death, and politically in the presidential cycle we're in, my educated guess is nothing will happen before the next president is elected."
Texas governor Greg Abbott issued a statement calling Scalia an "unwavering defender of the written Constitution."
The New York Times has put up this quick obit, pausing it seems before publishing the full obituary they've no doubt already written and have filed away.
San Francisco and Silicon Valley have immediately taken to Twitter to announce and discuss the news, and discuss how the news is being believed and/or disbelieved as it breaks. The story originally broke via the San Antonio Express-News, but many people have been cautious to believe the report. It's now been confirmed both by El Paso station KVIA, and CBS News.
Some of the reactions, naturally, fall in the "too soon" category too.
And, of course, Donald Trump has already chimed in.
The totally unexpected loss of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is a massive setback for the Conservative movement and our COUNTRY!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 13, 2016
Breaking news is when I really do love Twitter— Nellie Bowles (@NellieBowles) February 13, 2016
You're a local news outlet! Don't undermine local news reporting by assuming they can't do their job well. https://t.co/5FvmPi0qoj— Martin Austermuhle (@maustermuhle) February 13, 2016
It looks like it is true, Greg Abbott has issued a statement on Justice Scalia's passing. pic.twitter.com/MWAYszw8b5— Michael Li (@mcpli) February 13, 2016
@SFist Did Cheney shoot him in the face?— Chris Holmes (@greenlaker) February 13, 2016
it's possible to be sorry for Scalia's family and happy for America at the same time.— wendy macnaughton (@wendymac) February 13, 2016
@seldo Obama nominates Elizabeth Warren.— Dave Methvin (@davemethvin) February 13, 2016
Could Obama appoint himself to the Court? #scalia— Scott Lucas (@ScottLucas86) February 13, 2016
It's time for Obama to nominate the first black woman justice to replace #Scalia on the Supreme Court.— Samuel Sinyangwe (@samswey) February 13, 2016
Unprecedented for Congress to obstruct SCOTUS nomination for a year, especially in election year. But I wouldn't put it past them. #Scalia— Samuel Sinyangwe (@samswey) February 13, 2016
And Ted Cruz wants to obstruct the highest court in the land for an entire year just to advance his agenda. https://t.co/UWxX6fFiZe— Samuel Sinyangwe (@samswey) February 13, 2016
If a Dem Senate leader suggested that POTUS leave a SCOTUS seat vacant for a year -- they would be accused of treason— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) February 14, 2016
Couldn't @SenateMajLdr have the decency to wait until the funeral before playing cynical politics. Such obstructionism must not stand.— Jerry Brown (@JerryBrownGov) February 14, 2016
And we would do well to remember that Scalia was a human being, and a longtime close friend of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, despite their differences of legal opinion.
If indeed Scalia is dead I suggest we also take a moment to think of his friend Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Politics does not define our humanity.— James Poulos (@jamespoulos) February 13, 2016
Meanwhile, PBS's Gwen Ifil tries to moderate.
Hey Twitter. Everybody take a breath.— gwen ifill (@gwenifill) February 13, 2016
Previously: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Has Died At Age 79 [DCist]