US Justice Kennedy retiring; Trump gets 2nd Supreme Court pick

Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy was appointed in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan

Kennedy was nominated in 1987 by President Reagan to the court, after Robert Bork's nomination failed and Douglas Ginsburg was pressured to withdraw after questions were raised about his admission he had smoked marijuana several times.

Despite the Republican majority, Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund says she's confident senators can be persuaded to hold off.

"The Senate stands ready to fulfill its constitutional role by offering advice and consent on President Trump's nominee to fill this vacancy", the Kentucky Republican said in a speech on the Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has committed to confirming a nominee in the fall, which the Republican-controlled Senate should be able to do if McConnell can hold his razor-thin majority together.

Indeed, a similar scenario played out in 2016 and, two years later, the strategy is proving successful for Republicans.

Without Kennedy, the court will be split between four liberal justices who were appointed by Democratic presidents and four conservatives who were named by Republicans. He said the voices of millions of Americans heading to the polls this fall "deserve to be heard". He recently was part of the majority opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey which blocked attempts to limit the right to an abortion, and wrote the opinion in Obergefell v Hodges, the case which legalized same sex marriage.

Trump says in the Oval Office that he hasn't "really thought about that". The justices came close to deciding the issue in 2016, but Justice Antonin Scalia's death produced a 4-4 tie.

Let us not dwell on the obvious truth that they could trust Trump's judgment because he promised not to exercise it: He promised that he would choose Scalia's replacement from a list provided by people who have actually thought about such matters - principally, the conservative lawyers of the Federalist Society.

The weight of Kennedy's decision to step down is not lost on the senators, as the President's decision on a successor could transform the Supreme Court for generations.

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Tony Perkins, who leads the socially conservative Family Research Council, said abortion was simply "a factor" in evangelicals' excitement over a more conservative Supreme Court.

"I think it's inappropriate to discuss", he added. The FBI is still conducting background checks, the person said.

Allowing consideration of the president's statements is good news for plaintiffs in other immigration lawsuits against the administration, said Niels Frenzen, an immigration expert at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.

Kennedy's retirement presents Trump with his second opportunity in two years to nominate a judge to the country's highest court.

"Apparently there's yet a new standard now, which is not to confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all", the Senate Majority Leader said.

There is no nominee yet, but Trump indicated on Friday he will likely pick from a short list of roughly five candidates, all of which have bona fides among conservatives and align ideologically with Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Kennedy informed his colleagues of his plans, then went to the White House to meet with Trump, where the president said they talked for half an hour about a potential successor and other topics. Trump has continued to target courts and judges with the crudest of insults, even as his White House works overtime to push forward lower-court judicial nominees who are among the most ideologically extreme and professionally underqualified we have seen in almost 40 years in this field. The replacement of Kennedy with a reliable conservative would be far more consequential and would move the court markedly to the right. Trump called Kennedy a man "of tremendous vision" and said he hopes the next justice will be "just as outstanding". Religious conservatives will consider this Providential and will, for perhaps the first time, thank God for Kennedy.

Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, the senior Democrat on the judiciary panel's constitution subcommittee, said she expects Trump's nominee to be "intent on carrying out the right-wing ideology of the president and his most extreme supporters".

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