At this point, it will be more of a surprise if Justice Stevens does not retire in the next month than if he does. Sorry, Justice Stevens, the SCOTUS handicappers have stolen your thunder.His absence will mark a significant change in the court. As the most senior member of the liberal side of the bench, he was often tasked with authoring – or deciding who would author – the court’s opinion when the Chief Justice was not in the majority.
The justice who will fill his shoes in that respect: Justice Kennedy.
LA Times: After Stevens, the senior justice would be Antonin Scalia, a 1986 appointee of President Reagan, but he generally sides with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
Kennedy, a 1988 Reagan appointee, is next in line.
“Before and after Justice Stevens, it was often the case that if a ‘liberal’ result is possible, it is because Justice Kennedy is leaning that way,” said Walter Dellinger, solicitor general under President Clinton. “But after Stevens, Justice Kennedy will be the senior justice in almost any liberal majority, and he will assign the opinion to himself or another justice. It may even, at the margin, influence how he votes.”
Justice Kennedy’s most prominent press year was in the months after September 11, when he created a national “Dialogue on Freedom” speech circuit to talk about “American values.” At the time, the effort created wide speculation on Justice Kennedy’s long term intentions.
According to a 2002 Seattle Times article: “Everyone thinks, believes, speculates, that Kennedy wants to be chief justice” said a prominent member of the Federalist Society, an influential conservative legal organisation.
Maybe his new prominence will be a close second.
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