One paragraph hiding in an NPR piece has scholars wondering if Justice Anthony Kennedy is looking for a way out of his Supreme Court seat.
Rumors were already swirling for some time, but Nina Totenberg just fanned the flames.
But it is unlikely that Kennedy will remain on the court for the full four years of the Trump presidency. While he long ago hired his law clerks for the coming term, he has not done so for the following term (beginning Oct. 2018), and has let applicants for those positions know he is considering retirement.
Retiring justices tend to only hire one clerk, as the New York Magazine points out. Ruth Bader Ginsburg appears determined to stay put, considering she has already chosen her clerks through 2020.
Should Kennedy retire, President Trump will have the opportunity to appoint another conservative justice. His choice in Neil Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia was apparently a home run for conservatives, judging by The New York Times's recent editorial. In it, the editors note Gorsuch seems to have no plans to compromise.
Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., a staunch conservative in his own right, often seeks out points of compromise among the justices. On June 26, the court’s last opinion day, Justice Gorsuch appeared to be having none of it.
June 26, of course, was the day the court ruled in Trinity Lutheran Church's favor, declaring that the state of Missouri had no right to deny the religious institution access to its tire scrap program. In his opinion, Gorsuch wrote that, “The general principles here do not permit discrimination against religious exercise — whether on the playground or anywhere else.”
The Times made sure to also note that "by rights," Gorsuch's seat should be occupied by Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama's nominee.
If Trump does get another vacancy on the court, expect him to return to this list of experienced judges.