Justice Kennedy will retire at end of July — here's what to expect

Kennedy's legacy summarized in two words: 'liberty and dignity'

Cherri Gregg
June 27, 2018 - 3:13 pm
Chief Justice John Roberts (L) and Supreme Court Justices (2L-R) Anthony Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan arrive for a joint session of Congress address by President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol in February 2017.

Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is considered the swing vote on the nation's high court. So what will be the impact and next steps after his retirement?

"This is one of the most consequential retirements, really in the modern history of the courts," said Lisa Tucker, a professor at Drexel University's Kline School of Law. 

She said Kennedy was a key vote on maintaining LGBTQ and abortion rights, most notably known for paving the way for same-sex marriage and women's rights.

Tucker summarized Kennedy's legacy in two words: "liberty and dignity."

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As for what follows the announcement of the justice's retirement, she said she expects President Donald Trump to choose a replacement as quickly as possible.

"He's going to want to make sure of this before the November election because were the Senate to flip, he would have a much harder time getting his nominee through," she noted.

Tucker added that a Trump nominee would transform the high court by entrenching conservative doctrine — with major threats to civil rights.

Republican lawmakers have promised to confirm a replacement before the midterm elections. A short list is already circulating, and it likely includes appellate judges willing to overturn key civil rights decisions.

Justice Neil Gorsuch was Kennedy's protege, and he has consistently ruled conservatively. 

Kennedy's retirement is effective July 31.

"It's going to be a rocky ride," Tucker said.