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Politics Justice Kennedy announces retirement, meaning Trump could reshape the Supreme Court for years to come

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Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring from the bench on July 31. The centrist has been on the bench since 1988, and was often considered the swing vote in a number of major cases. President Donald Trump is expected to fill the vacancy with a conservative justice.

In this July 15, 2015 file photo, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy speaks in San Diego. play

In this July 15, 2015 file photo, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy speaks in San Diego.

(Associated Press/Denis Poroy)

  • Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced he will retire on July 31.
  • The centrist has been on the bench since 1988, and was often considered the swing vote in a number of major cases.
  • President Donald Trump is expected to fill the vacancy, and has previously released a shortlist of conservative judges he may choose from.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring from the bench on July 31, he announced Wednesday.

The news means that President Donald Trump will get to nominate another justice, further tilting the court to the right for potentially decades to come.

Trump said Wednesday that the search for the next justice will begin "immediately."

"Hopefully we're going to pick somebody who will be as outstanding" as Kennedy, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. "He is a very spectacular man. Really a spectacular man."

Kennedy, who turns 82 in July, has served for over 30 years and four months. He is the longest-serving justice currently on the court.

"It has been the greatest honor and privilege to serve our nation in the federal judiciary for 43 years, 30 of those years on the Supreme Court," Kennedy said in a statement.

Kennedy, a centrist, was often considered the swing vote on a number of major decisions. He cast the deciding vote on cases such as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010, which loosened campaign finance restrictions.

He also wrote the majority opinion for the Supreme Court's landmark gay marriage ruling, Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage across the country.

"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family," he famously wrote. "In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were."

Most recently, Kennedy sided with the conservative justices to uphold Trump's controversial travel ban on Tuesday. But, notably, Kennedy appeared to take a veiled jab at Trump in his concurring opinion.

"There are numerous instances in which the statements and actions of Government officials are not subject to judicial scrutiny or intervention," Kennedy wrote. "That does not mean those officials are free to disregard the Constitution and the rights it proclaims and protects."

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(Skye Gould/Business Insider)

Trump's shortlist for the next justice

Rumors that Kennedy could retire in Trump's first term had been swirling for more than a year.

Trump has even written up a shortlist of 25 potential nominees, each of them conservative judges, and said Wednesday that his next pick will come from the shortlist.

Trump added that Kennedy visited the White House to meet with him just before his retirement announcement, and Trump asked him whether there was anyone he "had great respect for" that he had suggested as a replacement.

Trump did not reveal whether Kennedy named anyone.

Trump's last nominee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed by the Senate in April 2017 and has filled a similar role on the court as the ultra-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016.

The White House has previously said that Trump intends to pick more justices "in the mold of Justice Gorsuch."

The oldest member currently on the court is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 85 years old. She's one of the most liberal justices, and Democrats hope she and the other three liberal-leaning members of the court can stay in order to ward off Trump getting to appoint a third justice.

Supreme Court justices get lifetime appointments, which usually only end if they decide to retire.

This is a developing story. Refresh for updates.