Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy is 81 years old and on the brink of retirement. Since joining the high court in 1988, Kennedy has largely played the role of ideological balancing beam, sometimes voting with his liberal colleagues, while more often than not siding with the court’s conservatives.
With more rumors of Kennedy’s impending retirement, liberals are aghast. President Donald Trump has the power to appoint a conservative justice to replace him. That’s only if he chooses to retire, a move liberals are begging him not to make.
Indeed, the New York Times editorial board published an editorial over the weekend with an impassioned plea for Kennedy to stay on the court.
What did they say?
"How can we put this the right way? Please don’t go," the board wrote Sunday.
"Your vote, more than that of any other justice, has delivered landmark legal victories for Americans of all political stripes, from gays and lesbians seeking equal rights to African-American college students seeking a better education to deep-pocketed corporations seeking to spend more money influencing politics," it explained.
The board claimed it's yearning for Kennedy to not retire at the end of this court term is not about "partisan jockeying" and instead appealed to Kennedy's honor, arguing his departure now "would not be good."
"There are two ways to think about this decision: The safeguarding of your legacy, and the safeguarding of the Supreme Court itself," the board claimed.
The Times is concerned that Trump will appoint another justice similar to Neil Gorsuch, whom he appointed last year. That's because justices like Gorsuch are constitutionalists and largely do not legislate from the bench like the court's more liberal justices tend to do.
"As Justice [Sandra Day] O’Connor would tell you, legacy isn’t only what you do when you’re on the court; it’s also the circumstances in which you leave it," the board wrote. "Do you want to give your seat to a president whose campaign and administration are under criminal investigation, whose closest aides have been indicted or have pleaded guilty to federal crimes?"
"Remember, the court has had a Republican-appointed majority since the early 1970s. If Mr. Trump gets the chance to fill your seat, it will be the most conservative court in nearly a century," the board wrote.
The Times acknowledged its request is not "entirely fair," but claimed it is necessary due to the current political climate.
"This is your court, Justice Kennedy. It is facing an institutional crisis, and it needs you," the board wrote.
How close is Kennedy to retirement?
Kennedy has not yet made a definitive statement regarding his future on the court. He is the court's second oldest member, behind Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 85 years old.
However, rumors of his impending retirement have heated up on Capitol Hill, just as they did last year. Some have speculated that Kennedy will retire when the court recesses in June.
However, as The Hill noted, it is mostly Republican lawmakers circulating the rumors, as they want another conservative installed on the high court.