In 1988, the Republican judge was a compromise choice of President Ronald Reagan, and through his tenure has been a moderate swing vote at the center of a balanced panel of more conservative and liberal justices deciding far-reaching legal questions.
His deciding vote found a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry, how much control the government has over individuals’ abortion rights, whether children and people with intellectual disabilities could be put to death and if terrorism suspects had rights in domestic courts.
There will surely be a well-publicized process to replace Kennedy after his July 31 retirement, but from the indications already given by President Donald Trump, his successor will likely be more politically conservative.
As a candidate, Trump vowed to nominate only pro-life justices when given the chance, hinting that enough new justices confirmed during his administration would chip away at Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that legalized abortion across the country.
His first successful nomination, Justice Neil Gorsuch, seems to fit that promise, and decided this term with the four other conservative justices, Kennedy included, that pregnancy centers cannot be required to tell their patients about the availability of state-offered services, including abortion.
This year, Kennedy sided more frequently with the other conservative judges on split decisions, like approving Trump’s ban of travelers from certain Muslim-majority countries, finding it unconstitutional for public employee unions to require collective bargaining fees from employees who are not part of a union and upholding Ohio’s voter roll purge process.
With such a profound change looming in the highest court’s makeup, we want to hear from you. How will Justice Kennedy’s retirement and replacement affect you? Are there important legal decisions ahead you’re fearful of or looking forward to?
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