Washington, June 28 (IANS) US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s longest-serving member and second-oldest justice, on Wednesday announced that he is retiring.
The Supreme Court’s press office announced Kennedy’s announcement hours after the court adjourned for the term.
“It has been the greatest honour and privilege to serve our nation in the federal judiciary for 43 years, 30 of those on the Supreme Court,” Xinhua quoted Kennedy, who turns 82 in July, as saying in a statement.
The justice’s decision, effective on July 31, gives US President Donald Trump a second chance to nominate a justice.
His nominee could be confirmed by a simple 51-vote majority in the Senate (where Republicans have a slim majority), although Democrats say the vote on the next justice should not come before the November midterm elections.
The President said he would immediately begin the process of choosing Kennedy’s replacement.
“There are certain names that are just outstanding, names that you already know, to be honest with you,” the US President said. “But they will come from the list of 25 people,” referring to a list of potential candidates the White House published in November 2017.
The 81-year-old Kennedy, who has been on the Supreme Court since 1988, will be that tribunal’s longest-serving member until he steps down on July 31.
The US Supreme Court is made up of nine justices, four regarded as progressive and five as conservative.
Kennedy, who is considered to be a moderate conservative, has cast the deciding vote in several important cases before the high court.
He voted in favour of same-sex marriage in 2015 and in 1992 he joined a plurality opinion that upheld a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion (established in the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision).
Kennedy’s Supreme Court tenure began on February 18, 1988, after he was nominated by Ronald Reagan, a Republican president who was in office from 1981 to 1989.