Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has temporarily put to rest rumors that he is considering his retirement from the nation’s highest court.
During a private clerk reunion Saturday evening, Kennedy reportedly admitted to his former law clerks that “there has been a lot of speculation about … a certain announcement from me tonight.” Kennedy continued: “And that announcement is: the bar will remain open after the end of the formal program!”
While the 80-year-old justice has yet to make any public statements about his retirement, sources close to Kennedy say he is seriously considering hanging up his robes. Speculation hit a fever pitch when his former law clerks moved the planned reunion to Saturday, as judges often announce their retirement plans to their clerks before notifying the public.
But the Supreme Court broke for its recess Monday without a retirement announcement from the Reagan appointee. Kennedy can make the announcement whenever he wishes, but Monday was seen as the most likely day when he would so so.
The Supreme Court would see a seismic shift in its ideological makeup if Kennedy were to retire.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the high court to replace the late Antonin Scalia was seen as a win for many Trump supporters, but it served mostly to restore the court’s balance to what it was before Scalia’s death.
Kennedy, on the other hand, holds the pivotal role as the court’s swing vote. He often casts the deciding vote in many of the court’s most contentious cases.
In fact, last year Kennedy voted in the majority in 98 percent of the cases heard before the Supreme Court.
His legacy was set in 2015, when he cast the vital swing vote in Obergefell v. Hodge, the landmark case that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
In addition, Kennedy earned the support of abortion rights supporters when he voted to uphold the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1992.
“As the court’s most important Justice — at the center of the institution’s ideological balance — Justice Kennedy’s ability to bridge the divide between left and right on critical issues such as the right to access abortion cannot be overstated,” Elizabeth Wydra, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, told CNN. “Replacing Justice Kennedy with a Trump nominee would almost certainly sound the death knell for Roe, just as candidate Trump promised during the 2016 campaign.”
If Kennedy were to announce his retirement, Trump would likely replace him with a more consistent conservative.
The president has vowed to select his next Supreme Court nominee in the same manner he chose Gorsuch if such an opportunity were to arise.
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