Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced on Wednesday that he would be retiring from his position after 30 years, giving President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans a second shot at cementing conservative control of the court.
Kennedy, 81, told President Trump of his upcoming departure in a recent letter.
“For a member of the legal profession it is the highest of honors to serve on this court,” he wrote. “Please permit me by this letter to express my profound gratitude for having had the privilege to seek in each case how best to know, interpret, and defend the Constitution and the laws that must always conform to its mandates and promises.”
Kennedy also addressed his retirement in a statement released by the Supreme Court’s press office, stating that serving on the court has been “the greatest honor and privilege.”
His decision to step aside was based on his own desire to spend more time with his family, though Kennedy said they were willing to let him continue his service.
President Trump thanked Justice Kennedy for his service in a statement released by the White House.
“Today we thank Justice Anthony M. Kennedy for his thirty years of distinguished service on the Supreme Court of the United States,” Trump said. “Justice Kennedy has been a tireless voice for individual rights and the Founders’ enduring vision of limited government. His words have left an indelible mark not only on this generation, but on the fabric of American history.”
Since being named to the court by former president Ronald Reagan in 1988, Kennedy has served as a key swing vote on the court. His departure now opens the door to solidifying a far more conservative Supreme Court.
Last year, President Trump nominated and confirmed Colorado Judge Neil Gorsuch to the court.
A list of 25 potential nominees was released shortly thereafter featuring the names of judges who could be selected for a nomination should another justice step down.
“The president remains deeply committed to identifying and selecting outstanding jurists in the mold of Justice Gorsuch,” the White House said in a statement at the time the list was compiled. “These additions, like those on the original list released more than a year ago, were selected with input from respected conservative leaders.”
Among the judges on Trump’s list are Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, Brett Kavanaugh, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and Georgia Supreme Court Justice Britt Grant.