Controversial conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has died, according to CNN. The 79-year old was on a visit to Texas for a hunting vacation when he passed in his sleep.
Scalia was the first Italian-American to sit on the United States' highest court. He was staunchly conservative, but only in his beliefs, not his personality. The jurist was always one to engage in debate with his brash demeanor and a sharp sense of humor. However, as an American and as a judge he always respected the Constitution and American law.
"What can I say," was a favorite phrase of the man colleagues knew as "Nino."
"Justice Scalia had an irrepressibly pugnacious personality," said Edward Lazarus, a former Supreme Clerk law clerk who wrote about the experience in "Closed Chambers."
"And even in his early years of the Court, that came out at oral argument when he was the most aggressive questioner. And behind the scenes, where the memos he would write-- what were called 'Ninograms'-- inside the court had a real galvanizing effect on the debate among the justices."
Scalia was always known for his sharp mind and even sharper pen - where he would use both to make a point when a verdict came down. Most notoriously, he was staunchly against marriage equality and wrote a rebuttal that connected with some Americans but angered many others.
"He could be belligerent, he was obviously very candid about he felt about things," said Joan Biskupic, a USA Today reporter who wrote a biography of Scalia. "He loved to call it as he saw it, completely not politically correct. In fact, he prided himself on not being PC on the bench in court."
He had New York and Mediterranean roots and loved to use words to convey his meanings. His street smarts and well-calculated views helped him to rise the ranks of the court system.
"He was very good with audiences that weren't predisposed to like him," said Paul Clement, a former Scalia law clerk. "He was incredibly disarming and charming in his own way."