By Joe Lehmann | WASHINGTON
Recently, there has been much speculation about the end of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s Supreme Court membership. Nominated to the SCOTUS by Ronald Reagan, the 80-year-old Justice may be preparing to retire from the Court. With a whole range of issues swirling about the Court, Kennedy’s retirement would likely result in reshaping the way the Court renders decisions. Unanimously approved by the Senate on February 3, 1988, he has been the swing vote on the Court in many cases, and while he was appointed by a Republican president, he is seemingly never restrained by ideology.
For instance, he has sided with the liberal bloc on several issues including the death penalty (Kennedy v. Louisiana), gay marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges), and abortion (Planned Parenthood v. Casey). At the same time, he has also sided with the Conservative bloc on issues like election spending (Citizens United v. FEC) and partial-birth abortion (Gonzales v. Carhart).
Not only has he been a prime example of blind justice, he also keeps his decisions based on the Constitution. For instance, in his majority opinion for Citizens United v. FEC, he wrote: “If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.”
Justice Kennedy’s seemingly libertarian jurisprudence has undoubtedly shaped the Court’s opinion on many issues. Accordingly, if President Trump is given the opportunity to replace Kennedy, he will have the chance to appoint a Justice that takes ideology into account. As a result, the view of the Court would likely swing to favor the Conservative bloc and current issues before the court such as LGBT rights, gerrymandering, and the travel ban would be practically predetermined.
Justice Anthony Kennedy has always been an evenhanded Justice. He has rarely felt the need to follow party lines, which is something every judge should learn from. Given his influence, incisive intellect, and impressive writing ability, no matter who gets appointed to replace him, they will have a large legacy to follow.