The Daily Illini

UI professor discusses influence of Justice Kennedy’s retirement

By Madalyn Verlisaris, Staff Writer

Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81, will retire from the Supreme Court after more than 30 years in the position, effective July 31.

Alicia Uribe-McGuire, assistant professor in LAS, said Kennedy stepping down could cause a shift in the direction of the court. Such as, the court could start taking on more conservative cases because the president now could appoint a conservative.

With the retirement of Kennedy, many are wondering what will happen with certain cases, specifically with abortion.

“So many people are worried that Roe v. Wade will be overturned. It’s the biggest conversation that’s been going on since even the election, when President Trump stated that that was the goal of the justice he was going to appoint,” Uribe-McGuire said. “I don’t think we have too much to worry about because the next most conservative justice is Chief Justice John Roberts, who I don’t think will be likely to overturn Roe v. Wade.”

There could be a higher likelihood of restrictions being upheld with abortion since Kennedy was the swing vote with the Texas abortion case, she said.

The retirement of Kennedy is a good opportunity for conservatives to appoint a conservative judge, so the Supreme Court will consist of five conservatives and four liberals. Uribe-McGuire said this could be an opportunity for Trump to nominate a more conservative justice since the conservatives on the court tend to be more moderate.

“For quite some time, the court has kind of had a five to four divide, with five conservatives and four liberals. The conservatives have tended to be more moderate conservatives, such as Sandra Day O’Connor and Justice Kennedy, but will now shift to more conservative members being the five conservatives versus the four liberal,” Uribe-McGuire said.

She said if the Republican Party holds a majority, then they will have an easier time stabilizing a more conservative court.

A difference from the last nomination process of Neil Gorsuch is that Trump is hoping to nominate a justice sooner than normal, she said. Especially before the midterm election in November.

According to an article from the Washington Post, Trump says he is looking for a constitutionalist to replace Kennedy.

“In keeping with President Reagan’s legacy, I do not ask about a nominee’s personal opinions,” Trump said in an announcement in the East Room of the White House. “What matters is not a judge’s political views, but whether they can set aside those views to do what the law and the Constitution require. I am pleased to say that I have found, without doubt, such a person.”

President Trump nominated federal judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court Monday.

Kavanaugh is a conservative, which will increase the conservative control within the Supreme Court. He has worked with former President George W. Bush in the White House before moving to work in the courts, where he serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

In the end, Uribe-McGuire said although there are no large obstacles concerning the nomination process, if Trump does nominate a very conservative justice, it could be damaging in more moderate Republican areas.

“There are no clear obstacles that will arise. As I said, there’s not a lot Democratic senators can do to stop anything that the Republicans want to do, so it will come down to whether or not President Trump is nominating someone the Republicans are willing to confirm, which I think would be just about anyone that Trump will nominate,” Uribe-McGuire said.

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