As of last week, it has been confirmed that Justice Anthony Kennedy will be staying on the Supreme Court for at least another term. Supreme Court terms start in October and typically last until June or July of the next year. Reports of his retirement were broken earlier this year. NPR claimed that “While [Kennedy] long ago hired his law clerks for the coming term, he has not done so for the following term (beginning Oct. 2018), and has let applicants for those positions know he is considering retirement.”
Fears of his potential retirement caused hysterical media reaction. There have been prominent liberal politicians and celebrities calling on him not to retire during the Trump Administration. The Supreme Court has been thrust to the center of public attention ever since the Republicans refused to confirm Obama’s SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland in 2016. The challenge of finding a replacement for the late Justice Scalia was a central issue of the 2016 Presidential Campaign. Justice Gorsuch, confirmed in April of this year, contributed a conservative slant to the otherwise deadlocked court. The Supreme Court’s two most recent rulings favor Trump’s executive travel ban and supported religious liberties by siding with Trinity Lutheran Church in a case against the state of Missouri regarding discriminatory distribution of publicly funded grants.
Kennedy was nominated to court in 1988 by Ronald Reagan. Throughout his legal career he has been an important centrist in an increasingly polarized Supreme Court. Often the swing vote, Kennedy tends to side with the four conservatives on fiscal issues and the four liberals on social issues. Kennedy’s most famous majority ruling is his Citizen’s United opinion. Despite being appointed by Reagan, he has become more and more liberal in recent years on social issues. He still, however, pales in comparison to Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg, who consistently are among the most liberal on the court.
Among the biggest fears for liberals are potential overturns of Roe vs. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges, decisions relating to abortion and same-sex marriage respectively. Democrats will undoubtedly look towards the 2018 races in the Senate and House as ways to block another Trump administration nominee. Though their prospects for retaking the senate are slim there is a chance that they will be able to back the house.
Should Kennedy chose to retire at the start of next term, the Trump administration will undoubtedly look to the list twenty one judges floated by President Trump during the campaign. The list includes well known conservative appellate judges such as Amul Thapar and William Pryor.