CNBC is breaking a story that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, is stepping down from his post on the nation’s highest Court, effective July 31 this year:
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will retire from the highest U.S. court, giving President Donald Trump another chance to fundamentally reshape the top of the judiciary.
In a letter to Trump dated Wednesday, Kennedy said he would step down.
“For a member of the legal profession, it is the highest of honors to serve on this Court,” he wrote. “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.
The president’s first nominee to the court, conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, has already had an enormous effect on U.S. policy in rulings this week related to Trump’s ban on travel from certain countries, abortion and labor unions.
Kennedy, the 81-year-old swing vote appointed to the court by former President Ronald Reagan, has served on the bench for 29 years.
Politico reported last week that Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said “Kennedy is going to retire around sometime early summer,” suggesting the potential vacancy on the court could energize the Republican base.
But Heller’s office provided an official transcript of his comments, making it appear they were seemingly taken out of context by Politico.
“I believe that we’re going to have another Supreme Court justice this year,” Heller said. “I think that Kennedy is going to retire some time early summer. That being the case, Republicans are going to have another opportunity to put another Supreme Court justice in place, which I am hoping will get our base a little motivated.”
And now it has been announced that the 81-year-old senior associate justice informed the White House in a letter of his intention to step down from the high court after 30 years, effective July 31
This graph shows that Justice Kennedy has ruled from a slightly conservative lean to a slightly liberal one over time with the tendency to grow liberal over the years from 1986 to the present time. Considered a “swing voter” his opinions have sometimes been a help to the liberal activist side of the Court, and sometimes a help to the more strictly Constitutionalist group.
Arguably the most powerful member of the Supreme Court, Kennedy’s moderate-conservative views often left him the “swing” — or deciding — vote in hot-button cases ranging from abortion to gay rights to political campaign spending.
A Supreme Court vacancy will likely become a key issue in a midterm congressional election year, when control of the Senate is at stake.
That body will consider Trump’s latest high court nominee, requiring only a simple majority for confirmation. GOP leaders changed the rules when Gorsuch was being considered, to get rid of the 60-vote procedural filibuster threshold.
But Democrats are expected to try and transform the court opening into a broader political referendum on Trump’s leadership, and the future of social issues like immigration, gun rights, and race.
Republicans, for their part, hope Kennedy’s replacement helps them in the November elections.
His vacancy opens the opportunity for the President to pick a strong Constitutionalist as a Justice, which could help the Court take a more strictly Constitutional alignment for many years to come. This potential is no doubt terrific news for conservatives in the US, and probably at the same time it is eliciting collective groans from liberals.