UPDATE: President Trump said from the White House that he has an excellent list of potential justices to replace Kennedy and they will begin the process "immediately." It's reportedly the same list of 25 individuals he used to choose Neil Gorsuch. Trump commended Justice Kennedy's "tremendous vision" during his years on the bench.
UPDATE: Some media are hearing that Trump is ready to nominate and get a new justice confirmed before the midterms. That, ABC's Jonathan Karl notes, will be a "monumental task" because Democrats will do everything to prevent it.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement Wednesday. The 81-year-old justice was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.
Kennedy has had a significant impact on the Court, having authored landmark rulings relating to gay rights, the death penalty and campaign finance. Having voted on both sides of the ideological spectrum, Kennedy has long been considered the Court's "swing" justice.
Judicial experts have begun reacting to the news.
“Justice Kennedy is a most dedicated public servant, having served on the High Court for over thirty years," Leonard Leo, Outside Advisor to the President for Judicial Nominations, said. "He has cared deeply about the relationship between the Constitution and individual liberty, and played a key role in helping to shape the Supreme Court's conservative jurisprudence in the areas of campaign finance and the First Amendment, gun rights and the Second Amendment, the separation of powers and federalism, and reasonable restrictions on abortion, such as the partial-birth abortion ban. I thank him for his service and for the sacrifices he and his family have made in more than three decades.”
Scott Keller, former law clerk of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and current Solicitor General of Texas, had nothing but kind words for his old boss.
“It was a distinct honor to clerk for Justice Kennedy, and I wish him and his wife Mary all the best in retirement," he said in a statement. "From defending free speech, to recognizing an individual's right to keep and bear arms, to prohibiting partial-birth abortion, and to finding all of Obamacare unlawful, Justice Kennedy leaves a legacy of limiting federal power and protecting individual liberties. This Administration already has a list of outstanding jurists to select a worthy successor. And just like the terrific selection of Justice Gorsuch, I am confident that this Administration will honor Justice Kennedy's legacy by choosing another nominee dedicated to the rule of law.”
Conservatives and Republican lawmakers are cheering the news because the vacancy will give President Trump an opportunity to appoint another Neil Gorsuch-like nominee.
The retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy gives President Trump the opportunity to appoint another excellent jurist — and to solidify the constitutionalist wing of the Court for a long time. Trump has been terrific in his judicial picks and this will be biggest nomination yet!— Ron DeSantis (@RepDeSantis) June 27, 2018
Big week for conservatives who supported Trump in 2016 solely on account of SCOTUS seats— Peter J. Hasson (@peterjhasson) June 27, 2018
This post has been updated.