Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Dies at Age 79

The senior Supreme Court Associate Justice, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, was found dead at a West Texas ranch.
4:53 | 02/13/16

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Transcript for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Dies at Age 79
breaking news. Supreme court justice antonin Scalia has died. Justice Scalia was the longest-serving justice on the high court. Appointed by president Ronald Reagan back in 1986. Scalia passed away on a visit to Texas, and ABC's chief justice correspondent Pierre Thomas joins us with what we know at this hour. Pierre? Reporter: Tom, law enforcement sources tell me that justice Scalia died earlier today in Texas, apparent of natural causes. U.s. Marshals are at the scene, and there is no evidence of foul play. Scalia was a giant figure in Washington and news of his death has spread quickly. We're told president Obama has been informed, as has senior justice department officials. Fair to say that official Washington tonight is stunned. Tom? That is right. Pierre, thank you so much. The sudden death of justice Scalia, a huge loss for the court and the conservative moment. Chief justice John Roberts calling him, kwoement, an extraordinary individual and admired and treasured by his colleagues. ABC's Martha Raddatz on the justice who helped shape the bench. Reporter: Justice Scalia, the longest-serving justice on the court, apparently died from natural causes. The 79-year-old justice was staying at a ranch in west Texas on a quail hunting trip with Frie friends. When he failed to report for breakfast, a person associated with the ranch checked his room and found Scalia had passed away. Place your left hand on the bible. Reporter: Antonin Scalia was appointed to the high court by Ronald Reagan in 1986. A lifelong paradigm of conservatism. He was famous for his blunt dissents. That earned him a reputation of being combative, though many who knew him personally said he was both charming and funny. One of his closest friends on the court, liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Just last year, Scalia head headlines, voicing his dissent of the 6-3 decision to uphold a key component of the affordable care act, or obamacare, calling it, interpretive jigry pokery, in which words no longer have meaning. Scalia, who over the years had become the anchor of the court's conservative majority, was confirmed by the senate 30 years ago, 98-0. Martha Raddatz for us tonight. Martha, thank you. Let's go straight to senior white house correspondent Jonathan Karl. Jonathan, this news is so fresh, but now there is a vacancy in the supreme court. Reporter: A vacancy of the conservative icon of the supreme court. Scalia was really the hero to conservatives on the court. With that vacancy, the question is, will a republican-controlled senate allow president Obama to replace Scalia and we have an answer to that, at least from the republican leader of the senate, Mitch Mcconnell, is already out with a statement, saying that the American people should speak in the next election, that the next president should be the one that names the replacement to justice Scalia, so, we'll see what happens. I expect we'll hear from the president tonight, and we'll see if he intends to go forward with a nomination. But I can tell you, it will be a very, very tough battle ahead with a republican-controlled senate. It would be one thing if he was replacing one of the liberals on the court. But you're talking about replacing the conservative cornerstone of the supreme court. Now, Jon, you know, you've been in court, in the supreme court for some of the oral arguments with justice Scalia. What was your takeaway, sitting to close to him and what do you think his legacy is tonight? Reporter: Well, he is one that could inspire fear into the hearts of opposing council, coming before the supreme court, with rapid firequestions. He could be really quite funny. I've been in the court, I was in the court for the gay marriage decision, for the obamacare decisions, both of those decisions went against Scalia. He was in the dissent in both cases. But as he asked those questions, as he makes his case, he could also say something quite funny that the whole court would erupt in laughter. Really a unique figure in the court. I imagine that students of constitutional law will be Reading and quoting and studying his decisions and his dissents for a long time. Jon, earlier, we were reporting with Dan Abrams on the phone and we were talking about what happens next with the supreme court, now that there is a vacancy on the court. Will they essentially hit the pause button in making any decisions until the election year? Have you heard about that? Reporter: You have heard nothing on that so far. Certainly, the court has gone forward and had decisions with vacancies, so, I don't imagine there would be a total pause button in any way, but no word yet at all from the court, except confirming, of course, that he has died. Jonathan Karl for us tonight. Jon, thank you so much.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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