After 30 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement Wednesday.
In a letter to President Trump, Kennedy, 81, announced his retirement, which will be effective July 31.
He referred to his service on the court as “the highest of honors” for which he expressed “profound gratitude.”
Here’s the letter Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy sent to President Trump announcing his retirement. https://t.co/B2XLOwr2ZJ
— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) June 27, 2018
Kennedy served as a key vote on “high-profile issues such as abortion, affirmative action, gay rights, guns, campaign finance and voting rights.”
Without him, the court is comprised of four liberal justices and four conservative justices.
Kennedy provided the swing vote to overcome the split either way.
Although considered a conservative and nominated by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1987, Kennedy sided with liberal positions when he voted on gay rights and abortion rights.
He wrote the decisions on high-profile gay rights cases, including the 2015 ruling on same-sex marriage.
President Trump described Kennedy as an individual of “tremendous vision.”
Trump added that he will begin searching for a new justice “immediately,” he said Wednesday.
The pick will come from the list of 25 candidates released publicly during his Presidential campaign, which was updated last year.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2018
President Trump’s nominee is expected to be a staunch conservative, much like his first nominee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, which would grant conservatives a strong majority.
President Trump has said before that he would try to nominate justices who align with pro-life values in overturning Roe v. Wade. This would be a dramatic step from Kennedy, who voted in support of abortion rights.
Groups are expected to mobilize in both support and opposition to the nomination of a conservative justice due to the expected solid conservative majority.
The nomination and confirmation process of a new justice is expected to be carried out swiftly. President Trump’s past nominees have been named within weeks.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that the Senate will vote on a new justice this fall.
The Latest: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says his chamber will vote this fall on President Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy. https://t.co/TbhqyeiSq4
— The Associated Press (@AP) June 27, 2018
However, a nominee could be confirmed as early as August. The Supreme Court will reconvene in October.
Currently, Republicans hold a slim Senate majority at 51-49.
Vice President Mike Pence could provide the tie-breaking vote to confirm a nominee should the Senate divide at 50-50.
However, with November midterm elections on the horizon, Democrats have a chance of capturing the majority and posing a difficult challenge for confirming a conservative nominee.
Kennedy’s retirement came as a surprise. He recently hired four law clerks for a term beginning in October, and still plans to teach a law class in Salzburg, Austria, as he usually does each summer.