By Harold Bishop, J.D.
With the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2017-18 term drawn to an official close, Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy said today that he will step down on July 31. Kennedy, the regular swing vote on the High Court, submitted formal notification to President Trump of his retirement, empowering the President to move the Court further to the right and to leave an indelible mark on the federal judiciary.
Justice Kennedy advised his colleagues that he will cease regular active status as an Associate Justice and assume senior status as provided under 28 U.S.C. §371(b). In his notice, Kennedy stated: "For a member of the legal profession it is the highest of honors to serve on this Court. Please permit me by this letter to express my profound gratitude for having had the privilege to seek in each case how best to know, interpret, and defend the Constitution and the laws that must always conform to its mandates and promises."
Kennedy further stated in a press release, "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." He added that while his family was willing for him to continue to serve, his decision to step aside was based on his deep desire to spend more time with them. He further noted in parting his "admiration for his colleagues on the Court."
Justice Kennedy was nominated by President Reagan and took his oath of office on February 18, 1988. At 81, Kennedy is the second oldest justice next to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Since the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor in 2006, Kennedy has been the swing vote on many of the 5–4 decisions reached by the Court during the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts. His retirement will give President Trump the opportunity to make the Supreme Court more reliably conservative.
Under senior status, Kennedy will continue to receive his salary for life as long as he fulfills the service requirements of 28 U.S.C. §371(e).
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