Justice Antonin Scalia, a towering conservative voice on the US Supreme Court, has died at the age of 79, setting up a showdown over his succession in the run-up to the US election.
His death after three decades on the Supreme Court bench, coming 11 months before a new American president takes office, could potentially tip the balance of the highest court in the land from its current 5-4 conservative majority to a liberal one.
The flag outside the Supreme Court was lowered to half-staff in tribute to its longest-serving justice, who died in his sleep while on a hunting trip in Texas according to media reports.
“He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement. “His passing is a great loss to the court and to the country he so loyally served.”