Justice Anthony Kennedy, key swing vote, to retire from Supreme Court

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement Wednesday, June 27.Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement Wednesday, June 27. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced June 27, the last day of the Supreme Court's current term, that he is retiring on July 31.

Less than an hour later, President Donald Trump said he would move quickly to nominate a replacement, saying he would review a list of candidates from the list he had to fill the seat now held by Justice Neil Gorsuch after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

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Kennedy is one of five Catholic justices on the Supreme Court along with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor.

Kennedy is one of five Catholic justices on the Supreme Court

Rumors about his retirement have been around for a while. Kennedy, who turns 82 in July, is the second-oldest member of the court after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 85. He also is the longest-serving justice currently on the court, appointed in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan.

A California native, Kennedy took over the family law firm practice in 1963, the year his father died. That same year, he married Mary Davis. The couple has three children.

In 1975, he was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

In recent years, he has been viewed as the swing vote—a term he has been said to despise. He has been known for conservative views but has also sided with decisions that focused on individual rights.

In recent years, Kennedy has been viewed as the swing vote—a term he has been said to despise.

Kennedy wrote the 2015 majority opinion in the 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which said there was a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. He also wrote the majority opinion in Citizens United case in 2009 which said political spending is a form of protected speech. He was on the side of Hobby Lobby in the 2014 challenge to the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

“It has been the greatest honor and privilege to serve our nation in the federal judiciary for 43 years, 30 of those years on the Supreme Court,” Kennedy wrote in a statement announcing his retirement.

Without him, the court will be split between four justices appointed by Democratic presidents and four who were appointed by Republicans.

In late April, The New York Times editorial board pleaded with Kennedy to stay on for as long as possible.

“How can we put this the right way? Please don’t go,” it said, noting that Kennedy’s position, “between the four liberal justices and the four conservatives,” makes him “the most powerful member of the most powerful court in the country” for the past decade.

In late April, The New York Times editorial board pleaded with Kennedy to stay on for as long as possible.

The New York Times was hardly alone in speculating when Kennedy would announce his retirement.

Russell Shaw, freelance writer and author, wrote in a column published in late May by the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Arlington Diocese in Virginia, that if Kennedy does retire this year, “there’s sure to be a protracted, unusually ugly struggle in the Senate over confirming a successor.”

“President Trump is committed to naming a pro-life justice, as he did last year with Justice Neil Gorsuch,” he said. “Then it will be up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to do all he can to get the successor confirmed before the November elections—that is, while Senate Republicans are still sure of a slim Senate majority.”

Shaw also noted that the description of Kennedy as a conservative is “accurate enough on some matters, but where the social issues are concerned, Kennedy, a Catholic, has been anything but conservative, instead playing a key role in defending legalized abortion and conferring constitutional status on same-sex marriage.”

Boris Heersink, assistant professor of political science at Fordham University in New York, said Kennedy’s retirement “guarantees a strongly conservative Supreme Court for the time being,” stressing that Trump is “likely to nominate a hardline conservative in line with Neil Gorsuch.”

In an email, Heersink said the court has already made a set of “clear conservative judgments” this session which is likely to “continue for the foreseeable future.”

“It is even conceivable that this produces a small majority in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade,” he added.

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Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
J Cosgrove
2 months 3 weeks ago

Gorsuch while not a Catholic was educated in Catholic grammar and high schools including Georgetown Prep.. CNBC published a list of 25 judges that has been around for awhile that Trump may be considering.

Prediction: whoever Trump nominates, America the magazine, will have a hard time supporting and face incredible intolerance by the left.

James Haraldson
2 months 3 weeks ago

Wrong. You can not be a mass murderer supporting the crushing of babies, on a massive scale no less, and be a Catholic. Got it?

Lisa Weber
2 months 3 weeks ago

I am afraid for our country. "Conservative" mostly means "dishonest" or "favoring the wealthy." The Supreme Court upholding Trump's travel ban ignored his many anti-Muslim statements. Voting in favor of ruining unions is not going to serve working people well. Having another "conservative" Supreme Court justice will continue our slide into a heavy-handed, restrictive government that favors the powerful and steps on the necks of people who work for a living.

Theodore Seeber
2 months 3 weeks ago

I've been afraid for our country since 1973 when "Liberals" decided that meant "Eugenics to get rid of the disabled and the poor" and started their genocide against the unwanted.

See, two can play at that game. Islamic Liberals means execution by beheading for all Christians, who are now as unwanted as the fetuses people like you have been aborting.

Robin Smith
2 months 3 weeks ago

Go to bed, you're drunk.

Vince Killoran
2 months 3 weeks ago

"Mass murder" is occurring all around you and your response is to, what, post comments on a magazine website?

Tim Donovan
2 months 3 weeks ago

As a former long-time Democrat from 1980 when I registered at age 18 until just a few years ago (I'm now 56) when I very reluctantly registered as a Republican, while I sincerely hope that President Trump (whom I largely disagree with--more on that in a,moment) will nominate a judge who will vote to overturn the poorly reasoned Roe v.Wade and Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court decisions which legalized the violence of abortion for any reason up until the time when the unborn infant (or fetus, which means "young_one" in latin) is viable. In "Rights Talk: The Impoverishment of Political Discourse " by Professor Mary Ann Glendon , a persuasive book about many political matters which I read, Glendon describes how even prominent legal scholar Prof. Lawrence Tribe, who favors legal abortion, enunciated his view about why he thought Roe v. Wade was very poorly reasoned. I might point out that other prominent lawyers who favor legal abortion have criticized the reasoning of Roe v. eafe. For instance, Justice Ruth Bader Gingsburg has written that she believes Roe went too far in it's legalization of abortion for any reaspn, and not permitting each state to have the elected representatives of the people pass laws regarding abortion. I might add that during the 2016 election, , Hillary Clinton made,it clear that she would only nominate judges to the Supreme Court who favored legal abortion under any circumstances.
Back to President Trump. I agree with typical positions favored by the Democratic party. I favor stringent gun control laws, oppose capital punishment (although many Democrats favor capital punishment), favor reasonable laws and regulations to protect our environment, oppose the ban on admitting immigrants from largely Muslim majority natuons, oppose the recent Trump policy separating children and their parents, favor war only as a last resort after all diplomatic efforts have been exhausted; civilians must never be deliberately targeted, and nuclear weapons must never be used. Also, I believe the n the government providing reasonable assistance to the millions of Americans in need . Among many other people, these include people who are disabled, poor, homeless, seriously ill, senior citizens, veterans, people who are,mentally ill,
people who are addicted either to illegal or legal drugs, battered women (and men), abused children, and victims of human trafficking.

Vince Killoran
2 months 3 weeks ago

Please provide a detailed explanation of how of the re-criminalization of abortion would work.

David Vu
2 months 3 weeks ago

The liberals have Henry Reid to thanks. By get rid of the filibuster for court nominees, it comes back to bite Democrats and Liberals behind. It's time the steam roll the Democrats.

Derrick Kourie
2 months 3 weeks ago

I am not a US citizen. I struggle to understand the great concern about "liberal" vs "conservative" judges. Yes, of course, private views of individuals might lean in one or other direction. But surely, for people steeped in the law and legal tradition, such leanings would only affect their reasoning and decisions on the margins. Something is very wrong with the US justice system if court rulings are consistently to the right or the left, depending on the collective private leanings of the prevailing justices. Here in South Africa, some of the harshest judgements against the dominant political party have been made by supreme court justices whose personal political leanings appeared to be in the direction of that party. It would be tragic if this were not the case in the US.

J Cosgrove
2 months 3 weeks ago

A conservative judge will interpret the law based on its consistency with the constitution and the original intent while the liberal will interpret the constitution based on their current political objectives. They will say that the constitution is evolving based on current concerns. In other words the liberal will make the constitution mean what they want it to mean.

Stanley Kopacz
2 months 3 weeks ago

Where in the constitution is the personhood of corporations? Or voter suppression via gerrymandering? Or unlimited economic leverage on the electoral process. Or limitation on collective bargaining. These are all dear to the country's most oligarchic party. A republican court will represent the interests if those at the top. This is not new. The court us returning to its original function as defender and legitimizer of the elite.

J Cosgrove
2 months 3 weeks ago

You have it backwards. The elite/rich in the United States overwhelmingly are liberal and vote for Democrats and resides in the rich area along both coasts. The Republicans are the Party of small business and middle class.

Stanley Kopacz
2 months 3 weeks ago

From Forbes: of the richest 50 families and their political donations
28 mainly Republican
7 mainly Democratic
15 switch hitters

Of course, the Democrats are no enemies to wealth concentration in their present corrupted form. Maybe the Ocasio lady represents a change but I'm not an optimist. But the Republicans deliver all the goods. Unions built up the middle class. The destruction of the unions is key to shrinking the middle class. Right now, neither party as a whole represents the welfare if the common. As for small business, it's been hammered by Walmart and Amazon will finish the job. Nobody is blocking megamergers and economic giantism.

Stanley Kopacz
2 months 3 weeks ago

Seems likely that something will happen to Roe v. Wade now. Will Roe v. Wade be dialed back in increments and to which phase of pregnancy or will it be nullified in one fell swoop, deferring to the states? Will health of the mother still be factored in or abnormalities like anencephaly?
One thing I'm sure of, the 19th century Supreme Court made corporations into persons. This coming Supreme Court will likely confer legal godhood on them.
How will this court affect me? Not sure as I'm a retired old white scrote now. I would gainsay that gummint authoritarianism over average citizens will be supported by this court so my chances of being sodomized by a nightstick will probably increase.

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 months 3 weeks ago

Stanley
In the unlikely event Roe is overturned it means that the matter will become the province of each of the 50 states legislatures. That is exactly where it was before Roe was decided. If one were to conjecture the most disparate result among the 50 states, then the Blue States would have very liberal laws concerning access to abortion and Red States would be more restrictive.

I said "unlikely" with reference to the above because Chief Justice Roberts seems extraordinarily deferential to both keeping the Court in "its own Constitutional Lane " and his Judicial Lane holds "stare decisis" to a primary rule of the road.

Stanley Kopacz
2 months 3 weeks ago

Deleted

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