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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Found Dead at West Texas Ranch

Photo courtesy of Kainaz Amaria/NPR

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia was found deadat a ranch near Marfa, Texas, while on a hunting trip. The 79-year-old Scalia was visiting the Cibolo Creek Ranch when he passed away in his sleep. Scalia had arrived at the ranch on Friday.

President Barack Obama said in remarks Saturday night that he will nominate a successor to Scalia with less than a year to go in his presidency.

This post will be updated throughout the evening.

8:15 p.m. update: President Obama made remarks Saturday evening on the death of Antonin Scalia.  He praised Scalia's legal mind and called him an influential jurist:

"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."

Obama said he will put forward the name of a successor to Scalia and said the Senate would have ample time for confirmation prior to the conclusion of his second term in office. Republicans have called for the nomination of a successor to come from the next president.

Earlier: Scalia was an unwavering conservative vote on the Court. His death comes during a Supreme Court session when decisions are still to come on two cases from Texas. Whole Woman's Health V. Hellerstedtcenters on Texas' stricter abortion law passed by the state legislature in 2013. Oral arguments are scheduled in that case on March 2, 2016. Fisher v. University of Texas focuses on the University of Texas at Austin's use of race and ethnicity in its admissions considerations. Scalia's death leaves the Supreme Court with eight justices and sets the scene for what will likely be a contentious nomination process for the next justice, especially during a Presidential election year.

Texas GOP Senator and Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz has already called for that nomination process to take place after the election this November. He tweeted the following on Saturday afternoon:

Justice Scalia was an American hero. We owe it to him, & the Nation, for the Senate to ensure that the next President names his replacement.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott released the following statement on Scalia's death:

"Justice Antonin Scalia was a man of God, a patriot, and an unwavering defender of the written Constitution and the Rule of Law. 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. We mourn his passing, and we pray that his successor on the Supreme Court will take his place as a champion for the written Constitution and the Rule of Law. Cecilia and I extend our deepest condolences to his family, and we will keep them in our thoughts and prayers."

The statement from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on the death of Antonin Scalia:

"America today lost one of the finest jurists our country has known in my lifetime, a powerful voice for liberty and a passionate defender of the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans by the Constitution. His passing is a deep loss for our nation. Angela and I will keep his wife, Maureen, his children and his grandchildren in our prayers."

Senator Cruz calls Scalia "one the greatest Justices in history:"

"Today our Nation mourns the loss of one of the greatest Justices in history – Justice Antonin Scalia. A champion of our liberties and a stalwart defender of the Constitution, he will go down as one of the few Justices who single-handedly changed the course of legal history. "As liberals and conservatives alike would agree, through his powerful and persuasive opinions, Justice Scalia fundamentally changed how courts interpret the Constitution and statutes, returning the focus to the original meaning of the text after decades of judicial activism. And he authored some of the most important decisions ever, including District of Columbia v. Heller, which recognized our fundamental right under the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms. He was an unrelenting defender of religious liberty, free speech, federalism, the constitutional separation of powers, and private property rights. All liberty-loving Americans should be in mourning. "Justice Scalia’s three decades on the Court was one of President Reagan’s most consequential legacies. Our prayers are with his beloved wife Maureen, their nine children, and their precious grandchildren."

Jennifer Stayton is the local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" on KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on X @jenstayton.