After a whirlwind week of consequential rulings covering everything from travel bans, abortion and public employee union dues, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced his will retire from the bench as of July 31, 2018. Nominated by President Reagan in 1987, Kennedy has been considered a “swing vote” on the court, often playing the role of tiebreaker between the court’s liberal and conservative justices.

Kennedy’s retirement means that President Trump will get a second nomination to the high court following the nomination of Justice Neil Gorsuch shortly after Trump took office in 2017.

NBC News reports on the Kennedy retirement and the ramifications it could have for the balance of the court:

Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced Wednesday that he will retire at the end of next month, preparing the way for the most significant change in the court’s makeup in half a century.

The vacancy will allow President Donald Trump to make the U.S. Supreme court a solidly conservative body for years, if not generations, to come — a towering legacy of his time in office.

Kennedy’s departure on July 31, which had been rumored for the last year, could also put in doubt the future of a nationwide right of access to abortion.

“Justice Kennedy was the most important member of the court in a century, maybe ever,” said Tom Goldstein, a Washington lawyer who argues frequently before the court and publishes the SCOTUSblog web site.

Kennedy turns 82 in July and is the court’s second-oldest justice. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 85.

Since 2006, when moderate conservative Sandra Day O’Connor left the court, Kennedy has been the swing justice, often casting the deciding vote in the most high-profile cases.

Joining the court’s four other conservatives, he voted to gut the landmark Voting Rights Act, allow corporations and unions to spend unlimited funds to support candidates and give new life to the Second Amendment right to own a gun.

But he joined the liberals in banning capital punishment for the youngest offenders, declaring that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay had a right to challenge their detentions and limiting the powers of the states to enforce their own tough immigration laws.

In all likelihood, the court will become more conservative with Kennedy stepping down. President Trump will likely seek a nominee in the mold of Neil Gorsuch as his second replacement to the bench.

A Trump-nominated successor to Kennedy would likely become the court’s fifth reliable conservative, joining Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Gorsuch. Because only Thomas has declared opposition to Roe v Wade, it’s uncertain whether opponents of abortion would have the five votes needed to overturn it.

Kennedy’s departure will be the first major shakeup to the court’s ideological balance in years. Justice Gorsuch was tapped to replace deceased Justice Antonin Scalia, a solid conservative vote, so the makeup of the court remained as it was for the most part.

As CNN reports, Kennedy was pivotal for liberals on some major decisions, but lately he has sided with the conservative wing:

This term, Kennedy voted with his conservative colleagues in cases concerning issues such as the travel ban, religious liberty, voting rights, arbitration agreements, corporate liability and public sector unions.

“Although there were 19 5-4 decisions, none of those saw Justice Anthony Kennedy siding with the four more progressive justices — as he has done so often in high-profile cases in recent years, such as the gay marriage ruling in 2015,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

We should get word soon on how quickly the White House will name a replacement nominee, and then we can look forward to a grueling and arduous confirmation process during this pivotal election year. Let the grandstanding begin!

16 COMMENTS

  1. Kennedy turns 82 in July and is the court’s second-oldest justice. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 85.

    If Kennedy is going to retire, Ginsburg must be on the feet first plan. I am certain that Democrats will fight tooth and nail to oppose President Trump’s nominee but eventually they will relent and the nominee will be confirmed.?

    With many of the justices getting a little long in the tooth, President Trump will dramatically reshape the SCOTUS to reflect conservative values. I wonder how many Democrats will move to other countries??

  2. The Democrats should say it’s too close to the election, and therefore, the next Senate should interview any candidate, and so. shut down any hearings before next January. The time would be about half the amount that the Republicans obstructed Garland.

    Of course, it wouldn’t really make a difference, since it would be a long-shot, at best, for Democrats to take control of the Senate. They will likely lose Senate seats. But it would establish the idea that there are paybacks for unreasonable actions.

    If Trump were smart, he’d ask Kennedy to stay until the end of the year, and then begin hearings. That way, he could argue that he needs Republicans in the Senate to confirm a conservative justice. If he nominates someone now, the Supreme Court will be taken off the table as a Republican issue.

    • Your last paragraph is very true. However, Waters hateful rant and her “Impeach 45” has fired up his base, mod dems, and independents..

      Your first paragraph isn’t what the GOP speaker said. McC said it was too close to the “presidential” election.

      • The meaning is the same, since the Senate does the hearings.

        Trump should find ways to encourage the Democrats to obstruct the nominee. That would have the double benefit of leaving the issue on the table–why he needs more Republicans in the Senate– AND the public hates obstruction, so it would make Dems look bad. One-two punch. And, yes, Waters is the best thing going for Trump–he should stop talking about her, and let her hang herself.

        If he were smart.

        Once the nominee is confirmed, Dems will look fine, even fair; Scotus will be off the table before the election; and in fact, the public will shift the other way–seeing an already ultra-conservative majority, so they’ll need Democrats to provide a scintilla of balance.

        • Your comment about Waters hanging herself leaves me puzzled. I thought that she was reanimated from the dead by a voodoo priest. She after all does like one of the undead on the Walking Dead.??

          • Lol. She really shouldn’t be a member of Congress. It’s one thing for Gifferd to act, and do, stupid things but a Congress woman?

            The libs are going to say Trump said this and that. But Biden said he’d like to take Trump in back of a barn and…..

            There are so many examples. So the dems are from from innocent.

        • In past midterms the dems haven’t had problems with confirming judges. I think it was in 92? Not sure.

          This mid term especially, for me, is too iffy to wait. They’ve got to seize control while they can.

          If a woman is nominated will that help to bring out the vote?

          I know the Dems are going to Complain no matter what.

          • Right. Neither party used to have a problem confirming judges, anytime. Never in history has Congress ever refused to even talk to a nominee–with a full quarter of the president’s term left.

            The irony is that leaving it until after the election would help Republicans, since they could say they need more Republicans to safeguard the choice. If they rush someone through, it will rile some moderates–and take away an issue to pump up the right.

            • As you know historically the Congess will flip to the party out of power. So they’d better confirm Trump’s choice while they can.

              The moderates will vote their pocketbook no matter what. I don’t think the moderates care one bit about the Supreme Court.

              I do, however, think they are sick and tired of the parties in fighting. Aren’t we all?

            • Democrats have a long-shot chance of taking the House (two dozen is a lot to grab), but no reasonable chance of taking the Senate. The majority of seats up for grabs are Democratic, several in Trump states. They’ll be lucky to hold what they have. And it’s the Senate that matters.

              Yes, moderates are sick of partisan fighting. That’s why Trump would be smart to put off nominating, which would make him seem less partisan, yet leave him with the hammer of saying he needs Republican senators to “save” his nominee. Once the seat is filled, the issue is taken off the table. And it will be more obvious that Republicans have control of all three branches of government.

        • Maxine Waters has been slammed with death threats which have increased since Trump warned her in a threatening tweet to “be careful what you wish for.” Trump’s threat was just Trump behaving in ways and words that would get a kindergartener put in time-out.

          Hopefully, all members of congress will learn from her courageous stand how not to run and hide from a just fight.

          • Inciting constituents to riot is far from courageous. I think I would call it something like treasonous.?

            Politicians of either party will always be partisan and that is to be expected. Republicans did everything they could to thwart Obama. Some things were underhanded but nothing they did ever came close towards breaking the law. Old dumb as rocks Maxine as I said in the previous paragraph is at the point if not past of breaking the law.????

            It is a good thing that she didn’t do this a hundred years ago. If she did she would find herself in front of a firing squad.?

            • U S enemies are defined very precisely under American treason law. An enemy is a nation or an organization with which the United States is in a declared or open war . Nations with whom we are formally at peace, such as Russia, are not termed enemies. During the American Revolution, our forefathers were the rebelling Americans who were all committing treason against Britain. In the Civil War, the hundreds of thousands of men who fought for the Confederacy all levied war against the United States, as did the Northern people who aided and abetted the rebellion. It remains a true fact that most Americans have a traitor lurking somewhere in their family tree.

              Maxine Waters is entitled to free speech. While you or I may not agree with her prose, Waters is an American citizen and entitled to speak her thoughts.
              To suggest a firing squad because you resent another’s creed or color is very “Old South” and a lost cause.

            • I don’t care if you are a pink colored Outer Mongolian. It isn’t the color or the creed that I have problems with. I also don’t have problems with freedom of speech.?

              Inciting violence as Maxine Waters is to her constituents is a tad troubling to me. Having blowhard subpar actors like Kathy Griffin holding a severed head of President Trump is also a tad extreme. Exactly how would a likeness of Obama hanging from a tree been accepted??

              Why aside from being called racist it also would have been a direct threat on the useless president of the time. Something makes me think that certain actions go past free speech and are calls for violence. The radical Dumbocrats are in that position at the present time. Instead of voting to change what they don’t like it seems to me that they would rather destroy what they don’t like.?

            • The current occupant of the Oval Office is effectively barricading himself behind Twitter and firing in all directions. If Maxine Waters’ statement is a tad troubling, you should know Maxine Waters graduated from college with a BA in Sociology. At the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business in 1968, Donald Trump receive a “D” in the course LGST 2:10 Corporate Responsibility and Ethics.

              The effigies of Obama hanging from a tree was not an uncommon sight. They were put up by Trump’s presidential campaigners and followers. Ted Nugent (an ardent Trump supporter) threatened to kill Obama and Clinton during an onstage performance. Effgies of Obama were burned at a bar in Milwaukee, another hung from a tree at the University of Kentucky, also a building in Plains, Georgia, and a threatening noose hung in a home’s front yard in Marins Valley, California. Are these the calls of violence you are advocating?

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