As Anthony Kennedy Retires, Kindness Rules the Court
'An individual of unquestioned independence and integrity,' said the chief justice about the 81-year-old — and there's more
Many liberals across the country are already tearing their hair out about the future of the Supreme Court after today’s announcement — but for just a brief moment, it’s worth reflecting on the comments today from the justices of the Supreme Court in the face of the news.
No matter how vehemently they might disagree with one another other on critical legal, cultural and constitutional matters facing this country, kindness and courtesy ruled the day.
After Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy (shown above, seated, second from left) announced his retirement on Wednesday — effective in roughly a month — his fellow justices shared their praises for the 81-year-old colleague, a man many of them have served with for literally decades.
Kennedy sent a letter to the White House noting his “profound gratitude” for having served for 30 years. The announcement gives President Donald Trump a chance to solidify a conservative bloc on the nation’s highest court — and potentially reshape the court for decades to come.
Following news of the resignation, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts called Kennedy an “individual of unquestioned independence and integrity,” who practiced his legal wisdom not just in Washington, D.C., but “around the world through teaching, lectures, and discussions focused on the rule of law and the necessity of civic engagement, as Fox News reported.
Justice Clarence Thomas said Kennedy “has been unfailingly civil and kind in all of his interactions with each of his colleagues … He had a way of elevating each of us by his example.” He’s also a “good man,” added Thomas.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg called Kennedy “a true gentleman, a caring jurist, and a grand colleague in all respects.”
Justice Stephen Breyer called him “a judge of great vision” who “is thoughtful and careful in his decision-making.”
As for Justice Elena Kagan, she said Kennedy’s “legacy will be of enduring importance. The court and country will miss his wisdom, his independence and integrity, his love of liberty and commitment to personal dignity.” She added, “He was the best colleague imaginable.”
The retiring justice is “one of the most thoughtful colleagues” Justice Sonia Sotomayor has ever known, according to her statement. “It is undeniable he has had a monumental effect on the law,” the justice added, noting she feels “he will continue to be a roaring lion, even as he takes senior status.”
Neil Gorsuch, appointed by President Donald Trump and Kennedy’s former law clark, shared that Kennedy’s “respect for every person and every case has made him a great man and a great judge.”
“It has been an unexpected joy to serve this year as his colleague,” Gorsuch said, adding that Kennedy “is a model of civility, judicial temperament, and kindness.”
“It has been an unexpected joy to serve this year as his colleague,” Gorsuch said, and added Kennedy “is a model of civility, judicial temperament, and kindness.”
Former Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired from the Supreme Court in 2010, said he and Kennedy have remained close friends, and he “continue[s] to admire [Kennedy’s] independence, the high quality of his judicial work, and his devotion to the mission of the court.”
President Ronald Reagan nominated Kennedy in 1987 to the high court — and he was sworn in the year after, in February 1988. While he’s often voted with the court’s conservative bloc, he’s also been a key swing vote in many cases and occasionally sided with the court’s liberal wing, particularly on issues such as gay rights and abortion.
Fox News contributed reporting to this piece.