Earlier today Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy had a meeting with President Donald Trump to notify the president of his intended retirement announcement. A few hours later Justice Kennedy made the announcement public.
In a letter to President Trump, Kennedy wrote “it is the highest of honors to serve on this Court,” and he expressed his “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 decision by the 81-year-old justice is all but certain to kick off a pitched confirmation battle because of the likelihood for his successor to move the court’s future decisions on a number of significant issues.
It was rumored last year that Justice Anthony Kennedy wanted to retire; however, Kennedy holds institutional and traditional reverence for the court far beyond politics. It was likely he deferred the decision until after Justice Gorsuch, a former protege’, gained a year of comfort on the court. Justice Kennedy has long showcased his disdain for politics and how it corrupts the court; and his outlook is so steeped in judicial tradition it was anticipated would defer/delay his own personal interests if he sensed a need to guard or protect the integrity of traditions within the court from the toxic infiltration of politics.
Amy Howe of SCOTUS BLOG:
When he nominated Kennedy, Reagan billed Kennedy as a “true conservative,” but he was generally regarded as a consensus pick after the failed Bork and Ginsburg nominations; Reagan himself noted that Kennedy “seems to be popular with many senators of varying political persuasions.” The Kennedy nomination drew disapproval from some conservatives, however. Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, characterized Reagan’s choice as a “basic compromise of principle,” while political activist Richard Viguerie described the nomination as a “total surrender to the left.”
Over the next three decades, conservatives were indeed often disappointed with Kennedy and his votes on a variety of issues, particularly social ones. One such topic was abortion. Anti-abortion voters had played a key role in Reagan’s election, and Kennedy initially provided both the president who appointed him and those voters with reason to be optimistic. Just a little over a year after his confirmation, Kennedy joined the majority in upholding a Missouri law that (among other things) defined life as beginning at conception and required doctors to conduct fetal viability tests before performing abortions on women who were 20 or more weeks pregnant. Along with Justice Byron White, Kennedy also joined a separate opinion, written by then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist, that would have effectively dismantled the test outlined in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 decision establishing a woman’s basic right to an abortion. And in 2007, Kennedy wrote the majority opinion when a closely divided court upheld a federal law that criminalized a procedure known as a “partial-birth” abortion. (continue reading)