Report: Justice Kennedy Contemplating Retirement
The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it will publish its final rulings for this term on Monday. Some significant cases, including the possibility the court will hand down a decision on the legality of President Trump's travel ban, will be decided.
But Washington is rife with rumors and speculation about the future of Justice Anthony Kennedy and whether or not he will retire after the term. Kennedy is 80 years old and said to be seriously considering the idea of stepping down. If he did, it would set off the mother of all confirmation battles. Kennedy has been the all-important swing vote on the court, casting the pivotal fifth vote on legalizing same-sex sex marriage and upholding abortion rights.
Conservatives would dearly love to see one of their own replace him — which is why liberals are expected to mount a titanic battle to prevent that.
"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," said Elizabeth Wydra, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center. "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."
But nine years later, he sided once again with the liberals on the court to strike down a Texas law that abortion rights supporters thought was the most strict nationwide. Without Kennedy's vote, the law would have been allowed to go into effect, inspiring other states to pass similar legislation.
In the same term, Kennedy pivoted on the issue of affirmative action when he voted for the first time in favor of a race-conscious admissions plan at a public university.
After that term, former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal said, "It is very much Justice Kennedy's Court."
"You can't understand how important his affirmative action opinion is without understanding his earlier jurisprudence," said Katyal. "For decades, he has been the court's most eloquent voice on the need to be color blind -- why he changed his mind is something historians will debate for decades."
However, sometimes Kennedy voted with the four conservatives on the bench. It was Kennedy who penned the majority opinion in Citizens United v. FEC -- striking down election spending limits for corporations and unions in support of individual candidates.
He's also sided with the right side of the bench on issues such as gun control and voting rights. Kennedy joined Chief Justice John Roberts' 2012 opinion, Shelby County V. Holder striking down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.
And Kennedy sided with George W. Bush in the case that essentially decided the 2000 presidential election for the GOP candidate.