WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court holds the final session of its term today as two major issues loom before the justices: whether the court will take up the challenge to President Trump’s travel ban, and whether Justice Anthony Kennedy will announce his retirement, giving Trump an opportunity to dramatically alter the bench’s ideological balance.
Kennedy, an 80-year-old Reagan appointee, is known as the court’s “swing justice” for his deciding votes on crucial issues including rulings protecting same-sex marriage, striking down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, upholding affirmative action and granting corporations broad campaign contribution rights.
Despite months of speculation about Kennedy’s future, Kennedy did not mention retirement during a private event yesterday with his former Supreme Court clerks. The White House declined to comment on whether he has discussed the matter with Trump.
“I will never reveal a conversation between a sitting justice and the president or the White House,” White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said yesterday on ABC’s “This Week.” If and when Kennedy does decide to retire, Conway said, Trump “will look for someone with the fidelity to the Constitution, who doesn’t make up the law as they go along.”
The court today also could decide whether to take up the challenge to Trump’s travel ban, or at the very least issue an order on whether to leave in place lower court orders blocking Trump’s executive order from being implemented or to lift the injunctions. If the court decides to hear the case, arguments likely will take place in the fall after the court’s summer recess.
The court also will release rulings today that could have a significant impact on Trump’s immigration policies. If the justices uphold a lower court ruling that struck down a law authorizing deportation of a foreign national who commits a “crime of violence” as unconstitutionally vague, it could affect the Trump administration’s plans to ramp up deportations of immigrants with criminal convictions.
The court also will rule on the constitutionality of the federal policy that allows immigrants facing removal proceedings to be detained indefinitely — a rule the Obama administration urged the court to uphold. Challengers to the rule argued that the Due Process Clause requires detainees to be given a bond hearing within six months to make a bid for release. A ruling in the challengers’ favor also would hamper Trump’s bid to ramp up deportations.