WASHINGTON – President Obama may get liberal Elena Kagan on the Supreme Court, but conservative swing-voter Anthony Kennedy says he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Justice Kennedy, who turns 74 this month, has told relatives and friends he plans to stay on the high court for at least three more years – through the end of Obama’s first term, sources said.
That means Kennedy will be around to provide a fifth vote for the court’s conservative bloc through the 2012 presidential election. If Obama loses, Kennedy could retire and expect a Republican President to choose a conservative justice.
Kennedy, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, has been on the court 22 years. He has become a bit of a political nemesis at the White House for his increasing tendency to side with the court’s four rock-ribbed conservative justices.
With the retirement of fellow Stanford graduate Sandra Day O’Connor in 2006, Kennedy has inherited O’Connor’s mantle as the court’s swing vote.
His voting pattern suggests he’s actually become a far more reliable vote for the conservatives.
Intriguing news, but news that must be taken with a grain of salt, considering there are no direct quotes from Justice Kennedy confirming the report. And there likely won’t be.
John McCormack reminds us of how Kennedy voted on some recent high profile cases:
Kennedy has sided with the liberal activists on cases that held the Constitution grants habeas rights to enemy combatants, prohibits the death penalty for those under 18, and guarantees a right to abortion-on-demand. Kennedy has sided with the textualist/originalist bloc on 2nd Amendment and campaign finance/free speech cases. The 2012 election could determine whether these rulings and many others are upheld or overturned.
Assuming the report is true, Ed Morrissey sees a possible revenge angle to Kennedy staying the course until 2013:
Obama certainly reveled in his prime-time, televised, cheap-shot attack at jurists who couldn’t fire back. Samuel Alito took fire from the media for having just mouthed a rebuttal. The only revenge any of them can take is to make sure that they stay in place until Obama leaves office. The “at least” part of the report almost certainly means that retirement at 80 may be just as possible as retirement at 76. After all, John Paul Stevens didn’t decide to retire until he was almost 90 years old.
Perhaps the timing is just a coincidence and Kennedy didn’t have plans to retire any earlier even prior to the 2008 election. However, this looks more like a quiet revenge, and a reminder to Obama that Kennedy will likely remain relevant longer than the President.
Could be, but then again, several factors are up in the air:
1) Kennedy’s health. No known issues that I’m aware of, but at 74 you’re not exactly a spring chicken anymore.
2) The assumption that Obama will not be elected again in 2012. It’s a dream that many of us hope becomes a reality, but in a year or so if the economy starts a meaningful, noticeable recovery (read: people start going back to work in large numbers), the President could very well win again. What would Kennedy, nearing 80, do at that point?
3) Would Kennedy deliberately stick around just to spite the President and his cheap shots at the SCOTUS?
As they say, stay tuned …