Justice Kennedy to Retire - Replacement May Help Undo Roe


Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced that he is retiring from the US Supreme Court, a move that will give President Trump a chance to replace the pivotal justice and solidify a more conservative majority on the court.


“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, 81, said in a statement released in the afternoon of the last day of the term. He said his final day will be July 31.


Kennedy cast the deciding vote in the case that declared a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. He determined how far government may restrict access to abortion; whether attempts to curtail the corrupting influence of campaign contributions violated free speech; and how and when it is appropriate for government to exercise affirmative action.


His opinions often spoke of “dignity” and “liberty,” and, as the “swing vote” on the Court, his notions of how the US Constitution provides for and protects these had an outsize effect. “His jurisprudence prominently features an abiding commitment to liberty and the personal dignity of every person,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement. “Justice Kennedy taught collegiality and civil discourse by example.”


Although Kennedy held the deciding vote on many issues, abortion is likely to be the key focus in what is expected to be a bruising nomination battle for his successor. Forces on both sides of the abortion fight made it clear that they are prepared for battle.


“The most important commitment that President Trump has made to the pro-life movement has been his promise to nominate only pro-life judges to the Supreme Court, a commitment he honoured by swiftly nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B Anthony List. “We trust him to follow through on his promise.”


Nancy Northup, president and chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said “the future of reproductive rights is on the line.”


President Trump has publicised a list of 25 state and federal judges from which he has said he will choose. All are considered to be more conservative than Kennedy, and any replacement will move the court to the right and place Chief Justice Roberts in the pivotal role on the nine-member court.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell changed the Senate rules during the battle over President Trump’s first choice for the court, Neil Gorsuch, to require only a majority of senators for confirmation. Senate Democrats lack the numbers to deny the seat to Trump’s pick on their own but are expected to increase the stakes of the choice.

The Washington Post. June 27.

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