Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement Wednesday, the day the court’s term wrapped up.
His retirement was announced in a statement that was made available to Supreme Court reporters.
Justice Kennedy is retiring. #SCOTUS pic.twitter.com/jhLIM8VyLL
— Kimberly Robinson (@KimberlyRobinsn) June 27, 2018
Kennedy, a Reagan-appointee, had the reputation of being a crucial swing vote on the court. While in the most recent term he sided with the conservatives on the court’s most polarizing cases, in the past he’s provided the liberal wing a decisive fifth vote on cases concerning abortion rights and LGBT rights.
With the Senate in Republican control, President Trump will now have the opportunity to fill Kennedy’s seat with a far more reliable conservative who could potentially serve on the court for decades.
His move to retire stands to drastically reshape the court and take it in a far-right direction, which could have implications lasting for a generation — if not longer.
Beside abortion rights and LGBT rights, Kennedy also showed interest in curbing partisan gerrymandering (though he signed onto a decision punting the issue this term.)
Trump’s first appointee to the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, has emerged as one of its most far-right members. His administration has prioritized pushing judicial nominees, many of them extremely conservative.
The White House last year released a list of 25 people from which Trump would choose his next Supreme Court nominee. The President told the White House pool on Wednesday that he plans to select his Kennedy replacement from that list and that the process will “begin immediately.”
Kennedy’s retirement, effective July 31, sets the stage for Trump to make a legacy-defining move, and Senate Democrats will have no way of stopping his nominee from being confirmed. Senate Republicans blew up the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees last year, when confirming Gorsuch.
Gorsuch filled the seat left open by the 2016 death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. The GOP Senate blocked President Obama from putting his own nominee on the court.
“We will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor this fall,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said from the Senate floor Wednesday.