The speculation is hardly new. For months now, Supreme Court watchers have been wondering whether Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is often the deciding vote in controversial cases, will be stepping down. (Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick looked into the issue almost a month ago.) Now as the Supreme Court gets ready for its final week of work before the summer holiday, some are wondering whether Kennedy will use the court’s last public session on Monday to announce his retirement. Kennedy himself hasn’t actually said anything about the issue, but the prospect that President Donald Trump will be able to fill up a second Supreme Court seat is terrifying many liberals who are afraid that would allow conservatives to take decisive control over the highest court in the land.
So where is all this speculation coming from? The Associated Press summarizes:
Kennedy turns 81 next month and has been on the court for nearly 30 years. Several of his former law clerks have said they think he is contemplating stepping down in the next year or so. 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.
“Soon we’ll know if rumors of Kennedy’s retirement are accurate,” one former Kennedy clerk, George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr, said on Twitter Friday.
Kerr seemed to dismiss the attention his tweet received, writing on Saturday that he was just thinking out loud and had no inside information on the issue. “The news cycle in 2017: I am now tweeting about a Drudge banner that links to a story about speculation that quotes one of my tweets,” Kerr wrote.
The news cycle in 2017: I am now tweeting about a Drudge banner that links to a story about speculation that quotes one of my tweets. pic.twitter.com/qmigtvCyYW— Orin Kerr (@OrinKerr) June 24, 2017
To be clear, I have zero inside knowledge about if Kennedy will retire. I was just noting speculation in tweet about case for term limits.— Orin Kerr (@OrinKerr) June 24, 2017
CNN talks to “sources close to Kennedy” who say the justice is seriously considering retirement, but they aren’t sure about timing and whether it will happen this term. Several of his former clerks who will be attending this weekend’s reunion are reportedly concerned this will be the last time they will see Kennedy as a justice.
Also adding fuel to the rumor mill fire is that several Republicans in the Senate Judiciary Committee have publicly said they expect a new vacancy in the Supreme Court in the coming months. And conservative pundit Bill Kristol also lent credence to the rumors on Saturday, writing on Twitter that “it’s at least 50-50 that Justice Kennedy announces his retirement next week.”