WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said Wednesday that he is retiring, and that presents President Donald Trump with the opportunity to cement the bench’s conservative majority.
The 81-year-old Kennedy is stepping down after more than 30 years on the court. Hs retirement will take effect at the end of July.
A Republican appointee, the Sacramento native has held the key swing vote on such high-profile issues as abortion, affirmative action, gay rights, guns, campaign finance and voting rights.
Without him, the court will be split between four liberal justices who were appointed by Democratic presidents and four conservatives who were named by Republicans. Trump’s nominee is likely to give the conservatives a solid majority and will face a Senate process in which Republicans hold the slimmest majority, but Democrats can’t delay confirmation.
Trump’s first high court nominee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed in April 2017.