OKLAHOMA CITY - State politicians from both sides of the aisle are paying tribute to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away Saturday at the age of 79.
"Scalia was firm but fair," said former Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Turpen, a Democrat. "He was a little too much to the right of me on most issues, but he was a fundamentally decent guy. "
Turpen called Scalia's death unexpected and a shock and, though he didn't know him personally, the late justice was known to be good company.
"That's the kind of guy you want as a supreme court judge: a guy that's a human being for God's sake," Turpen said. "Not sanctimonious and judgmental but a human being, and he was."
Current Attorney General Scott Pruitt did know Scalia personally and, in a statement, said he was "deeply saddened" at his passing.
"Justice Scalia was brilliant, possessed incredible wit and was full of life. I am honored to have had the opportunity to witness his keen analytical mind on the bench and listen to the tremendous amount of wisdom in the questions he would ask. But, I also was blessed with the opportunity to 'break bread' with him and witness his humor and joy. I will remember those interactions the rest of my life. My heart is grief stricken for the loss of this great American. He will be remembered, without a doubt, as one of the most influential Supreme Court justices in the history of our nation."
U.S. Senator James Lankford agreed, calling Scalia a champion of the Constitution.
"The loss of Justice Antonin Scalia is a tremendous loss for the Supreme Court and for America. He was a principled Constitutionalist that provided an excellent model for how a Supreme Court Justice should evaluate a case and interpret the original intent of the law. He lived a full life of many accomplishments, including success as a lawyer and scholar, as well as a devoted husband and father. No other Justice stood stronger for conservative principles and gave a more articulate defense for the Constitution."
Turpen, also a NewsChannel 4 political analyst, said he expects Scalia's death to be a major issue on the race for president, adding he doesn't expect President Barack Obama to successfully appoint a new justice.