US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death on Saturday was determined as to be caused by a natural cause, hearth attack in a report after questions raised about the death of the Justice who worked on controversial business related cases.
Chris Lujan, a manager for Sunset Funeral Homes, said Scalia's body was taken from the El Paso facility late Sunday afternoon and was flown to Virginia, though he had no details. Scalia's family didn't think a private autopsy was necessary and requested his remains be flown home as soon as possible, he said.
Terry Sharpe, assistant director for operations at El Paso International Airport, said a private plane carrying Scalia's body departed around 8pm after it accompanied to the airport by US marshals. He said he didn't know where the plane was headed.
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 US embassies and military installations throughout the world.
Obama pledges nomination for Supreme Court "in due time"
Justice Antonin Scalia's death deprives conservatives of a key vote that could change the outcome in some major Supreme Court cases, including one in which labor unions appeared headed for a big defeat.
Immediate effects on the court of the loss of its conservative icon and longest-serving justice expected to be seen in outcome of many divided cases in next month's Supreme Court clash over President Barack Obama's health care law, religious liberty and contraceptives as the justice’s key vote will be voided.
"The vote of a deceased justice does not count," veteran Supreme Court lawyer Roy Englert said Sunday, a day after Scalia was found dead in his room at a west Texas ranch.
Absence of Scalia’s vote leaves the results tied as he was in the majority in a 5-4 split.
The remaining eight justices will either vote to hear the case a second time when a new colleague joins them or they will hand down a one-sentence opinion that upholds the result reached in the lower court without setting a nationwide rule.
According to Reuters, one possible contender to replace Justice Antonin Scalia was an Indian-American appealing court judge, Sri Srinivasan, whose background may politically challenge Republicans in case of appointment as Justice in Supreme Court controlled by Republicans.
Republicans have called for Scalia’s seat to remain open so that the next president, who would take office in January 2017, while Obama pledges a nomination "in due time."
On Sunday, Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates hardened their positions against Obama willing to fill the Supreme Court seat, a lifetime appointment that would help decide some of the most controversial issues facing Americans.
"We ought to make the 2016 election a referendum on the Supreme Court," US Senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz said on NBC's 'Meet the Press'.
However, 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."
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said on Sunday that Obama, a democrat, will nominate someone to fill the empty seat as soon as the Senate returns from recess on February 22.
“We expect the Senate to consider that nominee, consistent with their responsibilities laid out in the United States Constitution,” Schultz said. The White House did not give a specified timeline for Obama to announce his nominee yet.