Justice Kennedy just gave liberals a huge ray of hope for Christmas

Sorry, Donald.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

There are persistent rumors, often spread by extraordinarily well-connected lawyers and political operatives, that Justice Anthony Kennedy is pondering retirement. The justice himself has, at times, fueled these rumors.

Kennedy, an 81 year-old conservative, is the closet thing the Supreme Court has to a swing vote. Should President Donald Trump pick Kennedy’s replacement, the law would almost certainly lurch right on a wide range of subjects, from abortion to racial justice, marriage equality, and gerrymandering.

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Yet, as Above the Law’s David Lat reports, Kennedy has hired a full complement of four law clerks for the Court’s 2018-19 term. Active associate justices are allowed to hire four clerks, while retired justices hire just one. Kennedy hired a single clerk last summer. The fact that this clerk now has three compatriots suggests that Kennedy has not made the decision to retire for at least another term.

It should be noted that Kennedy can make the decision to leave the Court at any time, so the fact that he is now staffing up for another Supreme Court term does not guarantee that he will remain. But the fact that Kennedy now has a full complement of clerks lined up for another year should offer hope to anyone who does not want Trump to have any more control over who sits on the Supreme Court of the United States.