Kennedy retirement stirs dread among liberals, while conservatives exult

Kennedy retirement stirs dread among liberals, while conservatives exult

By Gary Gately   
Abortion rights activists demonstrate outside the Supreme Court in January. Many liberals fear a Trump appointee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy could lead to the court's overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision granting women the constitutional right to have an abortion. (Photo courtesy of Robin Marty)

WASHINGTON  U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s impending retirement brought dread among liberals worried his replacement will solidify President Donald Trump’s control of the high court, threatening women’s right to legal abortions as well as the rights of gay people, workers and minorities.

But conservatives rejoiced over the prospect of gaining a solid 5-4 majority on the court and pushing back against what they see as a liberal agenda.

The Washington-based Center for American Progress’ s Action Fund captured the alarm among many liberals, tweeting:

Demand Justice, another liberal group, emailed a plea for donations.

“This is not a drill,” the email read. “Justice Kennedy just announced that he is retiring from the Supreme Court. We need all hands on deck, right now, because the fate of the court for the next generation or more is on the line.”

Like many others, both liberals and conservatives, the group raised the prospect of a Trump-controlled court’s overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision granting women the constitutional right to have an abortion.

“Donald Trump explicitly told us that he would only nominate judges who are anti-abortion and would overturn Roe v. Wade. And he meant it,” Demand Justice said.

The president has pledged to appoint federal judges to overturn Roe v. Wade, which could well end up before the Supreme Court, and GOP lawmakers in Iowa, who passed the nation’s strictest anti-abortion law in May, explicitly said they hope it triggers a legal battle that results in Roe v. Wade being overturned

Trump said Wednesday that he would nominate a  judge from a list of 25 who had been vetted by the conservative groups.

“We must fight to ensure no one on Trump’s shortlist ever gets confirmed by the Senate,” Demand Justice said.

But conservative groups eagerly anticipate replacing the 81-year-old Kennedy — a swing vote who had joined more liberal justices in cases involving gay rights, affirmative action, abortion and voting rights — with a more conservative justice.

Kennedy, a practicing Catholic and 1988 appointee of former President Ronald Reagan, wrote the court’s landmark 5-4 ruling in 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage. He also has joined the court’s more liberal justices in banning the death penalty for juveniles and ruling Guantanamo Bay detainees could challenge detentions.

But Kennedy also has voted with more conservative justices to eviscerate the 1965 Voting Rights Act, expand Second Amendment gun ownership rights and lift limits on how much money corporations can donate to federal political candidates.

The Judicial Crisis Network announced Wednesday that it is launching a seven-figure national cable and digital ad campaign to target Democratic incumbents who might try to block Trump’s nominee to replace Kennedy.

A screenshot of the ad the conservative Judicial Crisis Network launched Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Judicial Crisis Network)


JCN had spent some $7 million on an ad campaigns to block Garland, President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, and nearly $10 million to support the confirmation of Gorsuch.

“When President Trump selected Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court last year, he kept a promise he had made to the American people to appoint judges who are fair, independent, and committed to upholding the Constitution,” Carrie Severino, JCN’s chief counsel and legal director, said in an email. “Like Justice Gorsuch, all of the men and women on President Trump’s judicial list are the best and brightest in their field….  Like Justice Gorsuch, each one of them has the wisdom and experience necessary to sit on the Supreme Court from Day One.”

A narrator in the latest ad, which urges citizens to call their senators, says: “Now there’s another opening, a chance to appoint another great justice. Like they did before, extremists will lie and attack the nominee. But don’t be fooled.”

Another conservative court-watcher, the Washington-based Judicial Watch, issued a statement saying: “Justice Kennedy’s retirement is another opportunity for President Trump to nominate a constitutional conservative to the bench who will honor the Constitution and the rule of law.  President Trump should put forward another nominee who has a demonstrated record of applying the rule of law rather than legislating from the bench.  And the U.S. Senate should move quickly to work with President Trump to consider and approve a new justice who will apply the U.S. Constitution as written and understood by our Founding Fathers.”

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