- Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced on Wednesday that he would retire on July 31.
- The centrist, who has been on the bench since 1988, has been considered the swing vote in some of the biggest, most controversial cases.
- President Donald Trump is expected to fill the vacancy, and he previously released a shortlist of conservative judges under consideration.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring from the bench on July 31, he announced Wednesday.
The news means President Donald Trump will get to nominate another justice, further tilting the court to the right for potentially decades to come.
Trump said Wednesday that the search for the next justice would begin “immediately.”
“Hopefully, we’re going to pick somebody who will be as outstanding” as Kennedy, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “He is a very spectacular man. Really a spectacular man.”
Kennedy, who turns 82 in July, has been on the bench since 1988. He is the longest-serving justice currently on the court.
“It has been the greatest honour and privilege to serve our nation in the federal judiciary for 43 years, 30 of those years on the Supreme Court,” Kennedy said in a statement.
Kennedy, a centrist, has been considered the swing vote in several major decisions, such as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010, which loosened campaign-finance restrictions.
He also wrote the majority opinion for the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalised same-sex marriage across the country.
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,” he famously wrote. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”
Most recently, Kennedy sided with the conservative justices to uphold Trump’s controversial travel ban on Tuesday. But notably, Kennedy appeared to take a veiled jab at Trump in his concurring opinion.
“There are numerous instances in which the statements and actions of Government officials are not subject to judicial scrutiny or intervention,” Kennedy wrote. “That does not mean those officials are free to disregard the Constitution and the rights it proclaims and protects.”
Trump’s shortlist for the next justice
Rumours that Kennedy could retire in Trump’s first term had been swirling for more than a year.
Trump has even written up a shortlist of 25 potential nominees, and he confirmed Wednesday that his next pick would come from it.
Trump added that Kennedy visited the White House to meet with him just before his retirement announcement. He said he asked Kennedy whether there was someone he “had great respect for” whom he had suggested as a replacement, but Trump did not say whether Kennedy named anyone.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement that a confirmation vote for Trump’s new pick would come this fall.
McConnell had enraged Democrats by holding up former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick, Judge Merrick Garland, throughout 2016, insisting on waiting for a new president. The move proved wildly successful for Republicans – once Trump was elected, he began the hunt for a conservative nominee, quickly landing on Neil Gorsuch.
Gorsuch was confirmed by the Senate in April 2017 and has filled a similar role on the court as the ultra-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016.
The White House has previously said Trump intends to pick more justices “in the mould of Justice Gorsuch.”
The oldest member of the court is Ruth Bader Ginsburg at 85. She’s one of the most liberal justices, and Democrats hope she and the other three liberal-leaning members of the court can stay healthy and ward off Trump’s getting to nominate a third justice.
Supreme Court justices get lifetime appointments that usually end when they decide to retire.
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