Big cases, retirement rumors as Supreme Court nears finish

Supreme Court building in Washington

Supreme Court building in Washington

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy is seen during a ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House April 10, 2017 in Washington, DC.

But Washington is rife with rumors and speculation about the future of Justice Anthony Kennedy and whether or not he will retire after the term.

There's been speculation about Kennedy's retirement since at least 2014, when the prospect of opening Supreme Court seats emerged as an early stake in the 2016 election.

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Kennedy has given no public sign that he would step down this year, but he turns 81 next month and has been on the court for almost 30 years. With President Trump under investigation by the special counsel and his approval rating mired below 40 percent, his incentive may be to cater to his base with a pick as far to the right as possible, an instinct enabled by the Republicans' move, during the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch, to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.

For now, however, that hasn't come to pass, with the justices leaving their last planned sitting of the term with no retirement announcements.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on Monday in a closely watched religious rights case involving limits on public funding for churches and other religious entities as the justices issue the final rulings of their current term. And the justices said they'll take on a new clash between gay rights and religion in a case about a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in Colorado. Kennedy was a part of the plurality opinion which said the right to abortion was a fundamental part of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause.

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"You can't understand how important his affirmative action opinion is without understanding his earlier jurisprudence", said Katyal. Now that Kennedy may step down at some point during the Trump administration, those same networks are suddenly eager for political "war". "For decades, he has been the court's most eloquent voice on the need to be color blind - why he changed his mind is something historians will debate for decades".

While he's among the court's conservative justices, he has sided with his liberal colleagues at times, including on the court's 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, permitting same-sex marriage nationwide.

"The exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, exclusively because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and can not stand", Justice John Glover Roberts Jr. wrote in his opinion. That raises the question of the existence of a live controversy in front of the Court to decide. But for some people watching the court, the most interesting development Monday was one that didn't come... Reporters wrung their hands over the potential that President Trump could replace the high court's "swing vote" and make it "solidly conservative for decades". "Replacing Justice Kennedy with a Trump nominee would nearly certainly sound the death knell for Roe, just as candidate Trump promised during the 2016 campaign".

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