These Reports Could Signify Kennedy Won’t Retire This Term

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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Justice Anthony Kennedy did not announce his retirement this weekend during a reunion with his former clerks, suggesting the prospects of his imminent departure from the Supreme Court this term is low.

As is typical of the end of each Supreme Court term, rumors abound that a retirement announcement from one of the Court’s senior justices is forthcoming. While Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the subject of such conjecture during the Obama years, discussion of the 82-year-old Kennedy’s future has dominated Beltway legal circles in recent weeks.

Politico’s Eliana Johnson and Reuters’ Lawrence Hurley report that Kennedy made no mention of retirement during the Saturday night’s proceedings. Federal judges traditionally announce their retirement plans during such events. What’s more, Kennedy convened Saturday’s reunion one year in advance of his usual schedule. The justice typically holds alumni functions every five years, but this weekend’s event came after a four-year interval, fanning speculation that his service on the federal bench is nearing its conclusion.

Bloomberg’s Greg Stohr added that few Kennedy clerks expect the justice to share his plans with them in advance of a public announcement.

The White House has quietly encouraged Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy to retire in recent months, sending signals meant to coax him into leaving the bench.

The Trump administration placed former Kennedy clerks in prominent posts throughout the Department of Justice. President Donald Trump has named Rachel Brand associate attorney general and Steven Andrew Engel assistant attorney general, both alums on Kennedy’s chambers.

Justice Neil Gorsuch’s nomination tracks this strategy — Gorsuch himself was also a Kennedy clerk.

The White House’s intentions were made plain in early February, when the administration leaked the names of two candidates under consideration for the next appointment to the high court to Adam Liptak of The New York Times. The candidates, Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Judge Raymond Kethledge of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, are also former Kennedy clerks.

In elevating Kennedy alumni, Trump has signaled to Kennedy that he can trust him to select his successor.

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