The announced retirement of Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy has rocked Washington. I have columns that will be coming out in both the Washington Post and The Hill addressing different aspects of this news. However, the departure of the last Reagan nominee is obviously the end of an era for the Supreme Court as an institution. As someone with well-known libertarian leanings, I have always had a strong identification with Kennedy’s jurisprudence. While conservative in his approach, Kennedy believed that the most sacred role of the Constitution was to protect individuals in quest for meaning and identification in their lives. I always found Kennedy both personally and judicially to be a man of grace and profound sensitivity. I have long dreaded his leaving the Court, which will be the worst for his departure.
I have been helping with the coverage of the Court this week and will continue to do so today. We are looking at a long hot summer as Supreme Court politics moves to the forefront of our national debate. However, this week should be a celebration and thanks to a man who gave so much to this country over decades of service. One could disagree with Kennedy, as I did on some cases, but no one questioned his sincere effort to strike a balance under the Constitution and on the Court.
There is little doubt that President Donald Trump is likely to move the Court to the right with Kennedy’s replacement. Trump has shown a remarkable commitment to fulfilling his campaign promises and this was the most prominent and repeated of those promises. Moreover, the timing could not be worse for the Democrats. Without the filibuster rule, the threats yesterday of a fight for the balance of the Court was less than convincing. There is every reason to believe that Trump is about to deliver on one of his greatest promises and that the Supreme Court is about the change in the significant way since the transition from the Warren to the Rehnquist Courts.