The 2016 election was full of tension. One reason the election was so fierce was due to the empty seat on the Supreme Court bench, previously occupied by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Both candidates wanted to fill the empty seat — Clinton with a progressive justice and Trump with a more conservative justice.
When Trump won, he filled the spot with Justice Neil Gorsuch, who is a constitutional originalist, taking into consideration the founders intent when writing the Constitution. Trump may get the chance to appoint another justice to the Supreme Court during his presidency, as Justice Kennedy has reportedly told applicants to wanting to clerk for him that he is considering retirement in 2018. (via Election Law Blog)
Nina Totenberg of NPR wrote a piece on Sunday discussing the newly appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch’s voting record since taking his seat on the Supreme Court. Hidden within her piece was a bombshell statement about Justice Kennedy and his tenure on the bench.
She wrote that the chances of Kennedy staying on the court for Trump’s entire term are slim, remarking that he has not hired clerks for the 2018 session, despite already hiring for the upcoming one. He has reportedly told applications for the 2018 sessions that retirement could be coming very soon.
She continued her piece discussing how Kennedy’s votes often decide the outcome of the case before the Supreme Court, and that Justice Gorsuch is more conservative than first realized when he was appointed.
As such, Totenburg observes that Kennedy’s position in of great consequence to the balance of power on the court, given that he’s often a deciding vote on major issues for the nation. Coupled with the fact that Gorsuch could very well be to the right of even Antonin Scalia, the political stakes are extremely high.
Speculation surrounding Justice Kennedy’s remaining time on the Supreme Court had him retiring sometime this year, reports CNN. However, with Justice Kennedy delaying in hiring new clerks for 2018, it appears that Kennedy is considering retiring before the 2018 midterm elections.
If Kennedy does retire during Trump’s presidency, Trump will have the opportunity to appoint another justice to the Supreme Court. In his final debate with Hillary Clinton during the election, Trump hinted at wanting to appoint pro-life justices to the Court, saying, “If we put another two or perhaps three justices on, [overturning Roe v. Wade] will happen.” (via The New York Post)
He added, “That will happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court.”
Speculation regarding Justice Ginsburg and her time left on the Supreme Court has been circulating as well. In an interview with the BBC earlier this year, Ginsburg stated that she will stay on the Court through 2017, but is open to the possibility of retirement.
“At my age you have to take it year-by-year. I know I’m OK this year, but what will be next year?” she said. (via Newsmax)
Should Kennedy retire, Trump is more than likely to appoint a conservative judge, one who is possibly pro-life. Should both Kennedy and Ginsburg retire, Trump will have the opportunity to appoint three conservative judges to the court. You can bet that the political battle will be fierce, with Democrats doing everything they can to stop Trump’s nominees.
Since justices serve life terms, any appointment made by President Trump will be a boon to the conservative movement and preserving liberty for the American people for decades to come.