MARFA, Tex. — In the cloistered chambers of the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia’s days were highly regulated and predictable. He met with clerks, wrote opinions and appeared for arguments in the august courtroom on a schedule set months in advance.
Yet as details of Scalia’s sudden death trickled in Sunday, it appeared that the hours afterward were anything but orderly. The man known for his elegant legal opinions and profound intellect was found dead in his room at a hunting resort by the resort’s owner, who grew worried when Scalia didn’t appear at breakfast Saturday morning.
It then took hours for authorities in remote West Texas to find a justice of the peace, officials said Sunday. When they did, Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara pronounced Scalia dead of natural causes without seeing the body — which is permissible under Texas law — and without ordering an autopsy.
As official Washington tried to process what his demise means for politics and the law, some details of Scalia’s final hours remained opaque. As late as Sunday afternoon, for example, there were conflicting reports about whether an autopsy should have been performed. A manager at the El Paso funeral home where Scalia’s body was taken said that his family made it clear they did not want one.
One of two other officials who were called but couldn’t get to Scalia’s body in time said that she would have made a different decision on the autopsy.