Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring, giving President Trump and Senate Republicans an opportunity to create a solidly conservative court that could last for decades.
Kennedy announced his retirement in a letter to President Trump addressed, “My dear Mr. President.” Within minutes, Trump told reporters he would move quickly to nominate someone from a list of 25 potential replacements — someone “as outstanding” as Kennedy.
“It will be somebody from that list,” Trump said.
Kennedy’s long-rumored decision to step down July 31 will touch off a titanic battle between conservatives and liberals in the nation’s capital, on the airwaves, and in states represented by key senators whose votes will be needed to confirm his successor, reports Business Insider.
Kennedy, 81, has held the most important seat on the court for more than a decade: He is the swing vote on issues ranging from abortion and affirmative action to gay rights and capital punishment, often siding with the court’s more liberal justices.
His long-anticipated retirement will come a year after Justice Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, which followed a 14-month saga that replenished but did not bolster the conservatives’ narrow advantage on the high court.
“For a member of the legal profession it is the highest of honors to serve on this court,” Kennedy said in his letter to the president. “Please permit me by this letter to express my profound gratitude for having had the privilege to seek in each case how best to know, interpret, and defend the Constitution and the laws that must always conform to its mandates and promises.”
He had given no hint of his departure during the court’s last day in session Wednesday, sitting quietly with his right hand to his temple, occasionally adjusting his glasses. However, his wife Mary and several members of his family were in court.
Kennedy’s departure will leave a hole in the middle of the court that Republicans are eager to fill with a more reliable conservative. Trump has said he would choose from a list of 25 potential nominees assembled with the help of the conservative Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation. That list was expanded in November to include Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit – a front-runner for the seat who, like Gorsuch, once clerked for Kennedy.
Leonard Leo, an outside advisor to the White House on judicial nominations who is on leave from the Federalist Society, said the next nominee will be in the Gorsuch mold.
“I expect the nominee to be like Justice Gorsuch, to demonstrate excellence in every respect, and to earn widespread support from the American people, and bipartisan support for confirmation in the Senate,” Leo said.
Trump’s opportunity is similar to George W. Bush’s in 2006, when he replaced moderate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor with the more conservative Samuel Alito. It is not quite the bonanza handed George H.W. Bush in 1991, when he replaced liberal titan Thurgood Marshall with ultra-conservative Clarence Thomas. That still could happen, however, if liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Stephen Breyer were to exit while Trump or another Republican is in the White House.
Among the other judges on Trump’s list most often mentioned as potential Kennedy replacements are Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, and Raymond Kethledge of Michigan, who serves on the 6th Circuit. More intriguing are fresh faces such as newly confirmed federal appeals court judges Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana and Amul Thapar of Kentucky.
Clues that Kennedy might retire began to emerge in 2016, when he scheduled a reunion of former law clerks a year earlier than his customary five-year interval. But skeptics noted the reunion was planned even before the November election, at a time when Hillary Clinton was the heavy favorite to win the White House.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
June 27th, 2018