WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump received some welcome news Monday as rumors began circulating that Justice Anthony Kennedy may retire.
Kennedy, who’s leaned left since his appointment in 1988, has long held the decisive vote in many of the Supreme Court’s most significant and contested cases. His exit, say legal analysts, may be just what the Trump administration needs to turn the court right.
If Kennedy should choose to vacate his seat, says Artemus Ward, author of “Deciding to Leave: The Politics of Retirement From the United States Supreme Court,” time is of the essence. And Kennedy knows that Trump, as well as the president’s rivals, are surely awaiting his decision with bated breath.
“It’s now or never,” Ward told the New York Times on Monday (https://tinyurl.com/y9dn8drq). “It’s either this year or you wait until the next election.”
Working in Trump’s favor, said The Times, is a 2010 study by University of Chicago demographer Ross Stolzenberg and Northwestern Law professor James Lindgren, which found that justices tend to retire early in president’s terms.
“If the incumbent president is of the same party as the president who nominated the justice to the court, and if the incumbent president is in the first two years of a four-year presidential term,” the study reads, “then the justice has odds of resignation that are about 2.6 times higher than when these two conditions are not met.”
Legal analyst Christine Chabot of the Loyola University Chicago School of Law, who authored the study, says Trump is likely waiting in the wings with a staunch Conservative to replace Kennedy.
However, Chabot warns that Trump shouldn’t get too cocky too fast. Stepping down, she says, is difficult for Justices.
“Retirement from the court is very costly for a justice,” she wrote, “as he or she must permanently give up what is often an immensely personally rewarding position as well as the most powerful judicial office in the United States.”
Also, Chabot pointed out, Kennedy recently hired on a new batch law clerks who are scheduled to begin their roles in October, which would seem to indicate he plans on staying put.