In February, 1988, 51 year old judge Anthony Kennedy was sworn in as an associate justice for the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Appointed by President Ronald Reagan, Kennedy announced his retirement, effective the end of July, on June 27, 2018.
At 81 years old, Kennedy is not the oldest member of the current court. That distinction belongs to President Bill Clinton appointee, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
He is the longest serving though at over 30 years. The second longest serving is his fellow conservative justice, Clarence Thomas, a President George H. W. Bush appointee who approaches his 27th year on the SCOTUS bench.
Kennedy, considered conservative, came from a time when the bar for conservative skewed a bit further left than it does today. Republican Reagan proposed policies that would be considered liberal in President Donald Trump's Republican Party.
It is that shift of definitions that concerns many about Kennedy's choice to retire now, instead of during the administration of Barack Obama or after the 2020 elections or even just the 2018 midterms. Kennedy's announced retirement opens the door for Trump to appoint a second SCOTUS justice.
And this has many worried.
In a political cartoon by artist Trevor Irvin, Kennedy is shown with a now familiar slogan, thanks to First Lady Melania Trump's jacket, on the back of his judicial robe. It reads "I REALLY DON'T CARE DO U?", with the cartoon captioned, "Justice Kennedy Serves up his country."
https://t.co/NSX6fALx2K— (((jazzidiot))) (@(((jazzidiot)))) 1530240280.0
The cartoon began making the rounds on Twitter and Facebook Thursday. Reactions are mixed to the statement it makes.
Justice Kennedy certainly served for a respectable amount of time. He also did not steal President Barack Obama's final SCOTUS appointment from him.
That honor goes to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; a fact McConnell is even using for his reelection campaign.
However Kennedy is aware of who can now name his successor and the politics of the current administration are no secret either. But why should a Republican appointment concern Kennedy?
As stated previously, Kennedy's version of conservative justice differs greatly from the current version of American conservatism. In recent years, Kennedy has been the swing vote on important cases, siding with his liberal leaning colleagues.
Meanwhile, Trump vowed again this year, while speaking to his evangelical Christian followers, to ensure their religious freedom to discriminate against others be pushed as a political agenda. He also promised to further restrict women's access to reproductive health services.
Any judge appointed by Trump is likely to support his agenda.
For that reason, some anger at Kennedy's choice to retire now, before the November elections where Democrats hope to flip the Senate and House, has drawn ire directed at Kennedy from liberals and moderates alike.
But the feeling is not universal.
@jazzidiot An associate SCOTUS judge for 30 years. A federal appellate judge for 13 years before that. 43 years tot… https://t.co/kNo83J9YV6— Jason Kendziera (@Jason Kendziera) 1530242753.0
@jazzidiot @ralphnf1 He should of waited till after elections— jumpy231 🏈 🎅🎄☃️❄ (@jumpy231 🏈 🎅🎄☃️❄) 1530242581.0
@jumpy231 @jazzidiot @ralphnf1 Yup. Four stinking months. This was definitely intentional.— Barb Florey (@Barb Florey) 1530248567.0
@jazzidiot He is 81 years old.— factcheckUK (@factcheckUK) 1530276359.0
@jazzidiot @GreatDismal injustice for all— Victor Roa (@Victor Roa) 1530252819.0
@jazzidiot I don't know but it seems like the narrative seems to be shifting between, "he was always a rat anyway a… https://t.co/EoISMyHozi— More Moderate, But Still Significantly Spooky! (@More Moderate, But Still Significantly Spooky!) 1530263221.0
@budarydachas @jazzidiot Yep, a "villain" and a "monster" who wrote this in one of the most important decisions eve… https://t.co/w38IClYNFH— Jason Kendziera (@Jason Kendziera) 1530283954.0
@budarydachas @jazzidiot not hate on RBG for NOT retiring during Obama's second term? Now we have to stockpile org… https://t.co/V4vhwSuzpW— Jason Kendziera (@Jason Kendziera) 1530284101.0
But some people are bringing up questions about Justin Kennedy, Justice Kennedy's son.
@jazzidiot My first thought was "I wonder what Trump has on him, or what family member he threatened to force him t… https://t.co/lPiZ1PdWRU— trey que (@trey que) 1530263571.0
@jazzidiot @nycsouthpaw his son!!!— ...therefore..I...M (@...therefore..I...M) 1530283051.0
@jasonkendziera I just learned about Justin Kennedy, son of “Justice” Kennedy. Deutsche Bank real estate specialist… https://t.co/avF5yRMEbY— (((jazzidiot))) (@(((jazzidiot)))) 1530252438.0
@jazzidiot If you want to see a conspiracy you'll see one. I read about Justin Kennedy, too, and as far as I can te… https://t.co/K9qcRgxLor— Jason Kendziera (@Jason Kendziera) 1530254440.0
@jazzidiot I see powerful ppl helping powerful ppl stay powerful which is nothing new in the history of humankind.… https://t.co/wSH7MBCCAz— Jason Kendziera (@Jason Kendziera) 1530254533.0
Regardless of public opinion or questions on his motives, Kennedy will retire on July 31, 2018.