By Tyler Bauer
In a surprising announcement today, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the country’s highest court, effective July 31st. This comes in what has been an interesting week at the Supreme Court, which has seen multiple conservative victories in recent rulings.
Justice Kennedy, who joined the Supreme Court in 1998 after being appointed by President Reagan, has long been one of the most centrist justices on the high court. Justice Kennedy’s centrist nature has made his vote among the most important in the court’s history, with Justice Kennedy’s vote often deciding the fate of landmark cases. This week, Justice Kennedy has swung to the right, siding with conservative justices in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, Trump v. Hawaii, and Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31.
Despite Justice Kennedy’s recent string of conservative leanings, his centrist history has led to him being viewed by both major parties as an unreliable justice. The opportunity to replace a swing voter with a more ideological justice is a monumental opportunity for any president and party to have. Seeing as President Trump is in office and the Republicans control both the House and the Senate, one would expect Justice Kennedy to be replaced by a strongly conservative justice, allowing the Republicans to effectively control the Supreme Court, too. It is unclear whether the Republicans will rush their appointment to ensure the Republicans’ nominee can be selected while the Republicans control the House and Senate. With a stacked Supreme Court, it is likely that President Trump and the Republicans will act more aggressively in policymaking and policy implementation.
At the moment, it is unclear whether President Trump has a successor in mind. However, there are a few favorites being speculated about at the moment. Among the favorites are federal judges Brett Kavanaugh of Washington, William Pryor of Alabama, Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania and Amul Thapar of Kentucky.