Kennedy cast the deciding vote that found a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry. He determined how far government may intrude on a woman’s right to an abortion; whether attempts to curtail the corrupting influence of campaign contributions violated free speech; and how and when it is appropriate for government to exercise affirmative action.
His decisions shielded juveniles and the intellectually disabled from the death penalty, although he refused to find capital punishment unconstitutional. He found that those seized in the fight against terrorism had rights in U.S. courts. And that is only a partial list of the issues on which he was key.
Kennedy, 81, was appointed by President Reagan in 1988, the year that I became a member of the bar. His departure could mark a dramatic move to the right by the Robert's Court. Kennedy said in a statement released on the last day of the term. He said his final day will be July 31.
Kennedy’s role at the center of a court equally balanced between more predictable conservatives and more consistent liberals made him the most essential member of the modern court.
His opinions often spoke of “dignity” and “liberty,” and his notions of how the Constitution provides for and protects them had an outsize effect on Americans.
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