News Local/State

Justice Antonin Scalia Dead At 79

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in 2015.

In this Oct. 20, 2015, file photo, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia waits during an introduction before speaking at the University of Minnesota as part of the law school's Stein Lecture series in Minneapolis. Jim Mone/Associated Press File Photo

Antonin Scalia, the influential conservative and most provocative member of the Supreme Court, has died. He was 79.  The U.S. Marshals Service in Washington confirmed Scalia's death at a private residence in the Big Bend area of South Texas.  

The service's spokeswoman, Donna Sellers, says Scalia had retired for the evening and was found dead Saturday morning when he did not appear for breakfast.  

Scalia used his keen intellect and missionary zeal in an unyielding attempt to move the court farther to the right and to get it to embrace his "originalist" view of judging after his 1986 appointment by President Ronald Reagan.  

His 2008 opinion for the court in favor of gun rights was his crowning moment in more than 30 years on the bench.  

He was a strong advocate for privacy in favoring restrictions on police searches and protections for defendants' rights. But he also voted consistently to let states outlaw abortions, to allow a closer relationship between government and religion, to permit executions and to limit lawsuits.

Scalia's impact on the court was muted by his seeming disregard for moderating his views to help build consensus. 

Public officials were quick to voice their condolances on Scalia's death on social media.

"Justice Scalia was a loyal defender of the Constitution & a brilliant legal mind," U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) on his Twitter feed. "My thoughts & prayers are with his friends & family today."

"While our opinions were frequently at odds Justice Scalia remained true to his beliefs in 3 decades of service," tweeted U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). "My thoughts are with his family."

But others were already looking ahead to Scalia's successor on the Supreme Court, with some Republicans saying that the selection of a successor should be done by the next president.

Urbana attorney and onetime Republican congressional candidate Erika Harold took a neutral stance, tweeting: "The (Supreme Court) Justice appointment process will be hotly contested by both sides, (and) that is as it should be, (because) key rights/issues are at stake".

U.S. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) released a statement Saturday night.

“Today, America lost a true defender of our Constitution and one of the most respected U.S. Supreme Court justices ever to serve. His passing is a great loss for our country. My thoughts and prayers are with Justice Scalia’s family tonight.”