Why Speculation Is Running Wild Over a SCOTUS Opening

If Anthony Kennedy plans to step down now, we'll likely learn of it tomorrow
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 25, 2017 6:31 AM CDT
Rumor Mill in Overdrive Over Possible SCOTUS Opening
The justices of the US Supreme Court gather for an official group portrait to include new Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, top row, far right, Thursday. June 1, 2017. Anthony M. Kennedy is in the front row, second from the left.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

CNN uses the term "fever pitch." At this point it's only speculation, but the big question swirling around the Supreme Court has nothing to do with one of its cases. It's whether Justice Anthony Kennedy plans to step down—and whether he may do so Monday. What you need to know:

  • Slate points out that the speculation isn't fresh, but with Monday being the court's final public session of the term, that would be the time to do it if the 80-year-old is going to do it now.
  • Another reason the speculation is ramping up: A number of reports on the topic cite unnamed sources close to him as well as his former law clerks who say they think he's thinking about it. CNN uses the phrase "seriously considering."
  • And this from the AP: "Kennedy and his clerks were gathering over the weekend for a reunion that was pushed up a year and helped spark talk he might be leaving the court."
  • Bill Kristol put it at "at least 50-50" in a Saturday tweet.

  • The Washington Examiner throws one more log on the fire, reporting Senate Judiciary Committee members Ted Cruz and Chuck Grassley previously expressed that they expect a seat to open up this summer.
  • A piece from New Zealand's Stuff calls Kennedy "the man with the weight of America's goofy-shaped democracy on his shoulders," and that points to just how pivotal he has been. CNN frames it like so: "Like no other justice in recent history, Kennedy has cast the vital swing vote in cases that grab the [country's] attention." Among the biggest: Obergefell v. Hodges, which allowed for same-sex marriage nationwide. On the flip side, CNN notes he wrote the majority opinion in Citizens United v. FEC, which axed election spending limits for corporations.
  • Should the retirement announcement come to pass, who might Trump replace him with? Trump addressed that question in a late April interview with the Washington Times, saying he'd pick from the list of candidates he put out during the election. Trump also addressed the Kennedy rumors, saying, "I don’t like talking about it. I've heard the same rumors that a lot of people have heard. And I have a lot of respect for that gentleman, a lot."
  • Read one of the "most powerful" paragraphs written by Kennedy.
(Read more Anthony Kennedy stories.)

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