Speculation has been swirling for months that 80-year-old Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, the man who has determined the outcome of some of the most controversial Supreme Court cases, could announce his retirement as early as this term, The Associated Press and CNN reported Saturday.
Kennedy has cast the vital swing vote in key decisions. He cast the tie-breaking vote in Obergefell v. Hodges — a landmark opinion that cleared the way for same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015 and will likely be his most lasting legacy.
Helping drive the speculation, dozens of Kennedy’s former clerks are traveling to Washington to participate in a private clerk reunion that occurs regularly — and many of them wonder if it will be their last chance to meet with him while he is still on the bench.
Sources close to Kennedy say that he is seriously considering retirement, but they are unclear if it could occur as early as this term.
His departure would cause a seismic shift and offer President Donald Trump a chance to continue reshaping the court. Trump’s first nominee — Justice Neil Gorsuch, himself a former Kennedy clerk — joined the court earlier this year.
Senate Republicans voted earlier this year to change the chamber’s rules to require only 51 votes to confirm nominees to the high court, amid efforts by Democrats to block Gorsuch’s confirmation, reports the Hill.