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Media Laments Justice Kennedy’s Retirement

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement [1] sent the mainstream media into a tizzy on Wednesday.

It could set back progress on abortion and gay marriage if a new justice, appointed by President Trump, falls in line with fellow conservatives, wrote ABC News [1].

“From guns to gay rights, Justice Anthony Kennedy was the Supreme Court’s ‘swing vote,’” USA Today [2] wrote.

“We’re F*#%’D,” read the headline on the New York Daily News [3].

At Slate, the headline read [4], “Why Anthony Kennedy Gave Up,” and the subhead read [4]: “In his last year on the bench, the lifelong devotee of dignity and the rule of law joined Team Trump. What happened?’

Salon took another angle [5] with its story, headlined, “Another big win for Mitch McConnell,” with a subhead that read, “With Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, Mitch McConnell’s cynical Merrick Garland ploy goes from big to massive.”

Heather Digby Parton’s piece wrote that Trump can use the court pick to essentially escape prosecution in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into involvement with Russians by the Trump campaign in 2016.

Parton said there has been no reporting [5] that Trump asked his first Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, for an oath of loyalty before appointing him, but “it wouldn’t be surprising.”

This time, she wrote, the stakes are higher.

“It was not clear at the time that the president himself would be implicated in a massive counterintelligence investigation that would span continents, or that inappropriate questions of ‘loyalty’ would lie at the heart of a criminal investigation into whether or not he obstructed justice. But it does fit a pattern,” she wrote.

Trump has “a weird propensity for demanding personal loyalty from powerful cops, prosecutors and judges,” she wrote. But this time, he “may very well have been thinking more personally” when he perhaps demanded loyalty from Gorsuch, although no one reported it.

“He is facing very serious legal trouble, some of which may very well end up before the Supreme Court,” Parton wrote hopefully [5]. “The court could be asked to decide whether a sitting president can be indicted, and whether he must comply with a grand jury subpoena. They might even have to rule on whether a president can pardon himself. There are cases about the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause working their way through the courts. Will there be cases pertaining to Trump’s taxes or to various forms of fraud uncovered in the Cohen investigation? Will he have to sit for a deposition in the Stormy Daniels case?

“The man is a walking legal nightmare, and yet, with the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, he will get to choose yet another of the justices who may well decide his fate.”

Slate wrote [4] that Kennedy’s recent rulings signaled he effectively had “given up on the notion of the judiciary as a meaningful check on the other two branches.” It cited as examples his recent votes “to hobble public-sector unions, to support mandatory arbitration clauses and voter purges, and to increase the unchecked power of an already imperial presidency” in regard to the Court ruling Trump was within his power to issue the travel ban against seven predominately Muslim countries.

Kennedy was viewed as the court’s centrist. His swing vote determined a number of 5-4 cases – the most prominent of which was Obergefell v. Hodges, which made same-sex marriage legal nationwide.

“Now that Justice Kennedy has announced his retirement, it’s hard not to be afraid that it is going to be taken away,” Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in that case, wrote in an essay in Time. [6]

“Politicians think about the legacy they’re leaving behind for their constituents, the nation. And every judge thinks about the legal legacy they will leave behind. I struggle to understand how Justice Kennedy can look at our current environment and retire, knowing that his legacy of compassion and dignity, not to mention the civil rights of millions of people, are in serious risk.”