Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was instrumental to Supreme Court decisions involving same-sex marriage, abortion and campaign finance (the so-called Citizens United decision), announced that he will retire after a 30-year term on the bench.
Following the announcement Wednesday, President Donald Trump issued a statement praising Kennedy and making clear that the search for a new justice would commence immediately.
“Hopefully we’re going to pick somebody who will be as outstanding,” Trump said.
Naming Kennedy’s replacement would give Trump a second pick on the Supreme Court. In January 2017, the president successfully nominated Neil Gorsuch to the bench after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who served 30 years on the high court.
Trump’s call for an immediate search comes amid pushback from Democrats, who demand the nomination wait until after the November elections. Democrats remain bitter about the Republicans’ refusal to consider President Obama’s last nominee to the court, instead of delaying until Obama had left office. Now, the tide has turned. If Democrats take back a majority of seats in the Senate, that would allow them more say in affecting the nomination.
Among those nominees: 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Thomas Hardiman, based in Pittsburgh, and 11th U.S. Circuit Court Judge William Pryor, who works in Birmingham, Alabama. Both were among the possibilities for the seat that ultimately went to Gorsuch.
Hardiman and Pryor appear to be millionaires, just like the majority of their potential colleagues already on the nation’s highest court, and many of Trump’s other picks for senior positions, as the Center for Public Integrity reported last year.