Scalia died of natural causes, judge says
In this Wednesday, April 7, 2004 file photo, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks to Presbyterian Christian High School students in Hattiesburg, Miss. (Gavin Averill/The Hattiesburg American via AP)
Laurie Kellman and David Warren, The Associated Press
Published Sunday, February 14, 2016 2:35PM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 15, 2016 7:19PM EST
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died of natural causes and no autopsy was necessary, a judge has told The Associated Press.
Scalia's family didn't think a private autopsy was necessary and requested that the 79-year-old jurist's body be returned to Washington as soon as possible, said Chris Lujan, a manager for Sunset Funeral Homes in Texas. The body was returned to Virginia late Sunday.
Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara told The Associated Press on Sunday that she consulted with Scalia's personal physician and sheriff's investigators, who said there were no signs of foul play, before concluding that he had died of natural causes. He was found dead in his room at a West Texas resort ranch Saturday morning.
The owner of Cibolo Creek Ranch said the justice seemed his usual self at dinner the night before he was found "in complete repose" in his room.
John Poindexter told reporters Scalia was part of a group of about 35 weekend guests. The group had dinner Friday night and Scalia was his "usual, personable self," Poindexter said. Scalia retired around 9 p.m., saying he wanted a long night's sleep, according to Poindexter.
In Washington, where flags flew at half-staff at the White House and Supreme Court, the political arguing soared, raising the prospect of a court short-handed for some time.
The Senate's Republican leader, backed largely by his party's presidential candidates, essentially told a Democratic president in his final year in office not to bother asking lawmakers to confirm a nominee for the lifetime seat, especially since it would tip the court's balance away from its conservative tilt.
Scalia's colleagues praised his brilliance and grieved his death. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she and Scalia "were best buddies" for more than 30 years.
President Barack Obama ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at the high court, where Scalia served for three decades, and other federal buildings throughout the nation and U.S. embassies and military installations throughout the world.
The campaign-year political heat has risen over the vacancy on the nine-member court. At issue is whether Obama should make a nomination and the Republican-led Senate should confirm that choice in an election year.
Obama pledges a nomination "in due time." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thinks it should wait for the next president.
The Constitution gives the Senate "advice and consent" powers over a presidential nomination to the Supreme Court.
But the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would hold hearings on a nominee, said it would be "sheer dereliction of duty for the Senate not to have a hearing, not to have a vote."
Sen. Patrick Leahy told CNN that he believes McConnell is "making a terrible mistake. And he's certainly ignoring the Constitution."