And so an era ends.
Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced that he will be retiring this summer. And while the name of the Court has changed over his tenure from Chief Justice to Chief Justice, the court has largely been in Justice Kennedy's hands. Particularly from 2005 to date, ruling from the center.
Justice Kennedy is/was the court's wild card, its conscience. The all important swing vote necessary for the all-too-common 5-4 decisions that have typified modern Supreme Court rulings. A role that makes him both admired and condemned. He has sided with a more liberal approach to gay rights, abortion, and the death penalty, but remained conservative on voting rights, campaign finance, and gun control.
To me, Justice Kennedy's departure represents the end of something that is sorely missing in this country: moderation. The ability to decide a case based on the facts and merits of the case as it is brought before the court. Not to walk in with an expected set of values that will be upheld or to arrive at a decision aligning with political ideology. To evaluate the case placed before the court, and potentially arrive a decision that may be surprising.
And while I've couched this in terms of the Court, it is missing nationally in a much broader context. We are living in an era in which everything is filtered through a set and regimented ideology. Our news feeds are even now self-selecting to ensure we only receive the information that aligns with our view point.
It seems our Court will likely head in that direction now. President Trump and the Republicans are moving fast to appoint a successor, hoping to do so before the mid-term elections. The prevailing thought is that the court will now be solidly 5 conservative, 4 liberal with little swing. [An upside would be that it makes this period of Constitutional Law a little more straightforward - little guesswork].
I pray for the days of more swing votes. For more Justice Kennedys.
We need moderation now more than ever.