Justice Kennedy retirement gives Trump an opportunity to reshape U.S. high court

Vastavam web: Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said on Wednesday he plans to retire after three decades as a pivotal vote on the highest U.S. judicial body, giving President Donald Trump an opportunity to make the court more firmly conservative. Kennedy, who turns 82 in July and is the second-oldest justice on the nine-member court, has become one of the most consequential American jurists since joining the court in 1988 as an appointee of Republican President Ronald Reagan. A traditional conservative, he advanced gay rights, buttressed abortion rights and erased political spending limits.

Kennedy, mild-mannered and professorial, sometimes joined the liberal justices on key rulings, earning a reputation as the court’s “swing” vote who heartened conservatives and liberals alike, depending on the issue.His retirement sets the stage for a major showdown in the Republican-led U.S. Senate over the confirmation of Trump’s eventual pick for the lifetime appointment to replace Kennedy, all coming before November elections in which Democrats are seeking to seize control of Congress from Trump’s Republicans. “We have to pick a great one. We have to pick one that’s going to be there for 40 years, 45 years,” Trump added.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer called it “the most important Supreme Court vacancy for this country in at least a generation”. “It has been the greatest honor 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 issued by the court that said his retirement was motivated by a desire to spend more time with his family. He previously served as a federal appeals court judge in California.

Trump’s list was assembled with the input of conservative legal activists who also touted Gorsuch for the previous court vacancy. A person familiar with the White House nomination process said there were five front-runners on Trump’s list. They are Brett Kavanaugh, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, Thomas Hardiman of the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Raymond Kethledge of the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Amul Thapar, who Trump named to the 6th Circuit; and Amy Coney Barrett, who Trump named to the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Trump already has left an imprint on the court, restoring its 5-4 conservative majority with the appointment of Gorsuch after the Republicans in the Senate in 2016 refused to consider former Democratic President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. While Kennedy sided with conservative colleagues on many issues and authored the landmark 2010 ruling that allowed unlimited corporate spending in political campaigns, his tenure also included support for key liberal causes.