Mike Lee: Justice Kennedy Retirement This Year 'A Very Real Possibility'


As Republicans tout judicial appointments as a key success since the party took control of the White House and Congress, some lawmakers are speculating that President Donald Trump could have the opportunity to nominate another U.S. Supreme Court justice in the near future.

Trump has often cited the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court as a central accomplishment of his first year in office.

According to GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, another judge could retire as early as next month, leaving an opening to select and approve his replacement before the November midterm elections.

“I have no conclusive evidence one way or another as to what’s going to happen,” Lee told Fox News Radio’s “Benson and Harf.”

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But, he added, “There is a lot of chatter suggesting that Justice (Anthony) Kennedy might be preparing for retirement as soon as this year.”

Lee, himself included in candidate Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees, explained why any potential announcement about Kennedy’s future on the bench would likely be released in coming weeks.

“The Supreme Court, unlike most appellate courts in United States and around the world, clears out its entire case load every year by the end of June,” he said. “So, sometime between now and the end of June or the first day or two of July would be when we would expect an announcement from Justice Kennedy if he were going to do it.”

While all available indicators suggest the 81-year-old justice has not reached a definitive conclusion, Lee seemed confident he is weighing his options.

Do you believe Justice Kennedy will retire this year?

“What I’m hearing is that he is at least considering it, and that it is a very real possibility.”

One reason the time might be right for Kennedy, Lee said, is the uncertainty of the political landscape.

“What I’ve also heard is that having been appointed by President Reagan back in the 1980s, he considers himself a Republican, and with all things being equal would prefer to be replaced by a Republican president,” he said.

As the GOP faces the prospect of losing seats, if not its majority status, at the ballot box later this year, Lee said that ensuring a Trump replacement for Kennedy is approved would mean current lawmakers would need to work fast.

“There’s nothing more important that we could be doing than that,” he said of Republican priorities should Kennedy opt to step down.

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Confirmation of his replacement “should be something that we jump right onto” after a nominee is presented, Lee said.

He made it clear that Republican legislators “certainly should complete” the process prior to Election Day.

“Nobody knows what’s going to happen in that election, and if President Trump ends up having a chance to nominate someone to the Supreme Court, we need to get that nominee confirmed,” he said.

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Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a wide range of newsrooms.
Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a variety of newsroom settings. After covering crime and other beats for newspapers and radio stations across the U.S., he served as managing editor at Western Journalism until 2017. He has also been a regular guest and guest host on several syndicated radio programs. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife and son.
Texas Press Association, Best News Writing - 2012
Bachelor of Arts, Journalism - Averett University
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