Justice Anthony Kennedy to retire from Supreme Court

Official portrait (cropped) of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

By Ariane de Vogue, CNN Supreme Court Reporter

Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative who provided key votes for same sex-marriage, abortion access and affirmative action, will retire from the Supreme Court.

Kennedy’s decision to step down could transform the Supreme Court for generations. President Donald Trump will have his second opportunity to nominate a justice and will likely replace Kennedy with a young, conservative jurist. That would create a bloc of five staunch conservative justices who could move the court further to the right and cement a conservative majority for the foreseeable future.

The nomination battle will likely ignite a firestorm on Capitol Hill as it comes just a year after Republicans changed the rules of the senate in order to push through the nomination of Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first nominee.

President Trump tweeted a video statement following the announcement. He praised Kennedy’s service and said the search for a new justice will begin “immediately.”

Senator Orrin Hatch, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the former chair, released this statement:

“I congratulate Justice Kennedy on his service to our country. He has been a stalwart defender of the First Amendment, federalism, and other important rights. I look forward to working with the administration over the coming weeks to guide his successor through the confirmation process. I wish Justice Kennedy and his family the very best.”

Senator Mike Lee, who also serves on the Judiciary Committee,  released a statement regarding the announcement:

“Justice Kennedy admirably served his country on the Supreme Court for over three decades, leaving a unique and lasting mark on our country’s jurisprudence. I look forward to working with the President and my Senate colleagues to identify and confirm his replacement.”

“I started watching Supreme Court arguments for fun when I was 10 years old. So if somebody asked me if I would consider that I would not say no. But the president’s got a decision to make and I trust his ability to make it and make it well.”

This story is breaking and will be updated.