New York Daily News


Kennedy to step down from top court Nation braces for Trump’s nominee Judge Jeanine floated as Supreme pick

- BY CHRIS SOMMERFELD­T With Denis Slattery and News Wire Services

Justice Anthony Kennedy, the longestser­ving member of the Supreme Court, announced his retirement on Wednesday, giving President Trump the chance to appoint a second judge and cement conservati­ve control of the highest court of the land.

News of the 81-year-old legal veteran's retirement unsettled Democrats, who fear Trump will replace him with someone open to reversing rulings on divisive issues such as abortion and gay rights.

“For a member of the legal profession it is the highest of honors to serve on this court,” Kennedy wrote in a letter to Trump. “Please permit me by this letter to express my profound gratitude for having had the privilege to seek each case how best to know, interpret and defend the Constituti­on and the laws that must always conform to its mandates and promises.”

Kennedy, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, said his retirement will officially take effect July 31.

Kennedy's exit will result in a massive juridical shift for the high court, as he has been a crucial swing vote for more than a decade, siding with his liberal colleagues on the constituti­onality of same-sex marriage and the validity of the landmark Roe vs. Wade abortion ruling.

Democrats, still infuriated with their Republican colleagues over blocking President Barack Obama from appointing a Supreme Court judge, pledged to not consider any Trump nominees before the congressio­nal midterms in November, which could shift the power balance in the Senate.

“The Senate should reject anyone who will instinctiv­ely side with powerful special interests over the interests of average Americans,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “People from all across America should realize that their rights and opportunit­ies are threatened and should make their voices heard loudly, clearly and consistent­ly.”

He said it would be the “height of hypocrisy” for Republican­s to push ahead with finding a replacemen­t, since it's an election year — the argument the GOP used with Obama. The Republican­s, however, controlled the Senate then, as they do now, and will likely rush to make sure the replacemen­t is in place before the

midterm elections.

Republican­s currently hold a bare 51-49 majority in the Senate, although that includes the ailing Sen. John McCain of Arizona. If Democrats stand united in opposition to Trump’s choice, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can lose no more than one vote. If the Senate divides 50-50, Vice President Pence could break a tie to confirm the nominee.

Without Kennedy, the court will face juridical gridlock with four liberal justices appointed by Democratic Presidents and four conservati­ves named by Republican­s.

Trump vowed to begin his search for a new justice immediatel­y.

“We have obviously numerous people,” Trump said during a press conference at the White House, adding he will pick someone included on a list of 25 potential nominees he circulated ahead of his appointmen­t of Justice Neil Gorsuch last April. “We have a very excellent list of great, talented, highly educated, highly intelligen­t, hopefully tremendous people.”

Prominent on the list of possible successors are Judges Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvan­ia and William Pryor of Alabama, who was seriously considered for the seat filled by Gorsuch, and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who serves on the federal appeals court in Washington.

At the heart of Democratic unease is the fate of abortion rights, which conservati­ve activists have lobbied to undermine since the Roe vs. Wade ruling in 1973. All 25 candidates on Trump’s list have voiced opposition to Roe vs. Wade, which has been credited as the case that legalized abortions nationwide.

William Araiza, a constituti­onal law professor at Brooklyn Law School, speculated Trump’s appointee will be immediatel­y interested in chipping away at Roe — or overturnin­g it altogether.

“It’s somewhat inconceiva­ble to think that it wouldn’t happen,” Araiza told the Daily News, noting that a large segment of Trump’s supporters wants the ruling scrapped. “I believe they now see a clear path to overturn this. My sense is that the President uses judicial appointmen­ts to placate his base.” Abortion rights activists concurred. “The stakes are incredibly high, and the threat of a narrow-minded misogynist ascending to our nation’s highest court is real,” Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproducti­ve Health, said in a statement.

McConnell — who blocked Obama appointee Merrick Garland for nearly a year after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016 — said he will rally the GOP to be ready for a vote on Trump’s pick this fall.

“It’s imperative that the President’s nominee be considered fairly and not subjected to personal attacks,” McConnell said from the Senate floor, drawing ire over social media from critics who pointed to the Kentucky Republican’s treatment of Garland.

Kennedy’s retirement comes on the heels of a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling upholding Trump’s controvers­ial travel ban targeting Muslim-majority countries.

Democrats, who say Trump’s ban is rooted in Islamophob­ia and religious bigotry, feared more Supreme Court rulings favored by the President could be imminent.

“Earth-shaking & gut-wrenching,” Connecticu­t Sen. Richard Blumenthal tweeted minutes after Kennedy’s announceme­nt. “Departure of Justice Kennedy means a historic challenge is ahead.”

 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Justice Anthony Kennedy (left, and above with rest of Supreme Court panel) said Wednesday he would retire as of July 31, giving President Trump the chance to nominate a second justice, and troubling those who hailed Kennedy for his key votes on gay rights and abortion
Justice Anthony Kennedy (left, and above with rest of Supreme Court panel) said Wednesday he would retire as of July 31, giving President Trump the chance to nominate a second justice, and troubling those who hailed Kennedy for his key votes on gay rights and abortion

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA