Justice Anthony Kennedy Retires From Supreme Court

By Kenrya Rankin Jun 27, 2018

As the Supreme Court of the United States deals blows to the nation via rulings that impact reproductive care, religious freedom and labor, a new development could mean the court will be right-leaning for decades to come.

Today (June 27), Justice Anthony Kennedy resigned from the court via a letter to President Donald Trump. From the letter, which marks his last official day as July 31:


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.

President Ronald Reagan nominated Kennedy for the bench, and he was seated in 1988. He has long been viewed as a swing vote on a court that has recently leaned right. From The Associated Press:


Regardless of who replaces him, Kennedy’s departure will be a massive change for the high court, where he has been the crucial swing vote for more than a decade. He has sided with the liberal justices on gay rights and abortion rights, as well as some cases involving race, the death penalty and the rights of people detained without charges at the Guantanamo Bay naval base. He has written all the court’s major gay-rights decisions, including the 2015 ruling that declared same-sex marriage is a constitutional right nationwide.


He also has been a key vote when conservatives have won major rulings on the outcome of the 2000 presidential election in favor of George W. Bush, gun rights, limiting regulation of campaign money and gutting a key provision of the landmark federal Voting Rights Act.

Kennedy’s departure to spend more time with his family could give Trump a second nomination to the court. Last year, his conservative pick, Justice Neil Gorsuch, was seated in the late Antonin Scalia’s place. The move came after Republican members of Congress refused to take action on Merrick Garland, outgoing President Barack Obama’s pick for Scalia’s replacement.

As journalist Roland Martin noted on Twitter, waiting until after the midterm election to confirm a replacement would give Democrats a better chance of replacing Kennedy with a liberal justice. Republicans currently hold a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate, which confirms SCOTUS nominees.