In Brief

Anthony Kennedy hands Donald Trump chance to shape Supreme Court

Retirement of ‘swing vote’ judge raises prospect of a long-term conservative majority

US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement, giving Donald Trump the opportunity to shore up a conservative majority on the country’s highest court.

“It has been the greatest honour and privilege to serve our nation in the federal judiciary for 43 years, 30 of those years on the Supreme Court,” Kennedy said.

His position at the centre of the court, “equally balanced between more predictable conservatives and more consistent liberals”, made him “the most essential member of the modern court”, says The Washington Post.

Trump’s nomination to replace him is expected to vote with the conservative wing of the court, giving it a consistent 5-4 majority over more liberal judges and paving the way to reopen some of the most contentious issues in the country.

Anti-abortion activists have already been “chipping away at reproductive freedoms, as legislatures piled on restrictions”, The Guardian says, but Kennedy routinely sided with the liberal judges on such matters, as well as gay rights, which the Supreme Court backed in 2015.

His departure means “a woman’s constitutional right to access legal abortion is in dire, immediate danger – along with the fundamental rights of all Americans,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of Naral Pro-Choice America.

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