Jun 27, 2018

Anthony Kennedy retires as Supreme Court justice

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will retire — effective July 31 — giving President Trump a chance to pull the court significantly to the right for decades to come.

Why it matters: This is seismic — for politics as a whole, for the court and, ultimately, for the millions of Americans whose lives are shaped by its rulings. Replacing Kennedy with a more conservative justice would likely lead to new limits on abortion and LGBT rights, and could easily be the most consequential act of Trump’s presidency.

What's next: Kennedy’s replacement will likely come from Trump’s public list of 25 potential candidates, which was assembled largely by the Federalist Society and conservative legal activists.

  • The confirmation battle will be intense. Republicans have just a one-seat majority in the Senate, and Democrats will be under enormous pressure from their base to try as hard as they can to block Trump’s nominee.
  • Both sides are already prepared for a brutal fight. Liberal advocates did not wait for an actual vacancy to open up before amassing a war chest and research operations to oppose Trump’s eventual pick. The conservative organizations that helped support Justice Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation are similarly prepared.

The impact: Kennedy is best known for his 2015 ruling establishing a nationwide constitutional right to same-sex marriage, which capped off a string of Kennedy decisions that gradually expanded LGBT couples’ rights.

  • Kennedy has also helped slow the conservative march to limit access to abortion, and has wielded enormous power to shape the court’s rulings on a executive power, the First Amendment and a host of social issues.
  • These have mostly been 5-4 decisions. The court’s other conservatives have already voted to uphold significant abortion restrictions and opposed same-sex marriage. If they gain a more like-minded colleague in Kennedy’s absence, they’ll now be in the majority more often on those issues.

Between the lines: It’s been the Kennedy Court for years. His departure will profoundly alter the court’s internal dynamics and bolster Chief Justice John Roberts’ power.

  • Because Kennedy is the court’s swing vote, winning him over is often the only way to build a majority. And when he sides with the court’s liberals, he decides who will write the opinion, often assigning it to himself.
  • So, Kennedy has been more than a deciding vote — he has often dictated the legal reasoning and scope of the court’s biggest decisions. When he’s on the fence, both sides have had to win on his terms in order to win at all.

Roberts will now be in the majority more often, and will command a more reliable majority.

  • That gives him a lot more power to frame the court’s biggest decisions his way — which is a lot different from Kennedy’s.
  • (Kennedy’s opinions were often somewhat vague in their specific legal reasoning and he enjoyed grand rhetorical flourished, while Roberts is an incrementalist most of the time.)

Go deeper: Conservatives win big at Supreme Court.

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Making sense of the UN's climate conference coronavirus delay

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The scuttling of November's pivotal UN climate conference is the starkest sign yet of how coronavirus is throwing a wrench into efforts to combat global warming. But like the wider relationship between the coronavirus and climate initiatives, the ramifications are ... complicated.

Driving the news: UN officials announced Wednesday that the annual summit to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, is postponed until some unknown time next year.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 a.m. ET: 952,171 — Total deaths: 48,320 — Total recoveries: 202,541Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 a.m. ET: 216,722 — Total deaths: 5,137 — Total recoveries: 8,672Map.
  3. Stimulus updates: Social Security recipients won't need to file a tax return to receive their checks.
  4. Jobs update: 6.6 million people filed for unemployment last week, a staggering number that eclipses the record set on March 26.
  5. Health updates: The Trump administration won't reopen enrollment for ACA marketplaces this year.
  6. National updates: The Grand Canyon closed after a resident tested positive for coronavirus.
  7. World update: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu re-entered self-quarantine after his health minister tested positive for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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The weirdest NBA draft ever

Table: Axios Visuals

The 2020 NBA draft was already shaping up to be the weirdest draft in years, and now that the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the sports world, it could be the weirdest draft ever.

Why it matters: While most drafts have a clear hierarchy by the time April rolls around, this draft does not. There's no reliable No. 1 pick, almost every top-10 prospect has a glaring weakness and the global sports hiatus has shrouded the whole class in mystery.

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