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Richter retires : Trump could shape the US Supreme Court for years
US President Donald Trump has the chance to put a conservative stamp on the country's Supreme Court for a long time. One of the nine Supreme Court justices, Anthony Kennedy, will retire at the end of July, the court announced on Wednesday. Trump is now likely to want to replace the moderate conservative, who voted on some decisions together with the left-wing liberal judges, with a decidedly conservative lawyer.
The 81-year-old Kennedy informed President Trump in a letter on Wednesday of his decision, according to a statement from the Supreme Court. Trump said on Wednesday that he wanted to start the search for a successor "immediately". He praised Kennedy as a "great" lawyer.
Tough struggle expected
"Hopefully we will pick someone who is just as great," the president told reporters at the White House. He already has a list of 25 possible candidates. However, the President does not decide autonomously on the appointment of the judge - his personnel proposal requires the approval of the Senate.
A tough struggle for the new appointment is to be expected. Trump's Republican Party only has a wafer-thin majority of one vote in the Senate, and more than a third of the Congress House will be re-elected in November. In the election campaign that has already started, the composition of the Supreme Court is likely to become an important issue.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called on the president to wait until after the election to make a personnel decision. The vote of the voters on the composition of the Senate must be awaited, said Schumer.
Often he was the "ideological center"
For a long time there had been speculation about the judge's withdrawal. Kennedy was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1987. He often represented the ideological middle between the four judges on the left and right of the court. Often he tipped the scales. When it came to social issues, he mostly sided with his liberal colleagues. It was a "great honor and privilege" for him to serve the nation for 43 years in federal jurisdiction, including 30 years in the Supreme Court, said Kennedy. The 81-year-old justified his decision to retire by saying that he wanted more time for his family.
The Supreme Court is very important politically. It is not uncommon for the court to have the last word in current disputes about decisive laws or orders. This is also the case with the big issues that reveal the social division in the USA: abortion, immigration and gun ownership.
The office is retained for life
The decisions are often of national importance and shape the interpretation of laws in lower courts for years. The judges are appointed for life. With the election of a candidate, a president can influence the majority for a long time. If there is controversy, the attitudes of lawyers also play a role.
The Supreme Court has the final say on many political and social issues - from the death penalty to abortion to gay rights. It was only on Tuesday that the court ruled that Trump's heavily controversial entry restrictions for citizens of predominantly Muslim countries are not unconstitutional.
The ruling on the entry requirements came about with the vote of Kennedy. Overall, however, over the years he played a special role at the Supreme Court, in that he did not always vote with the conservative wing. Since four of the other judges are clearly assigned to the conservative or left-wing liberal wing, he often played the role of tipping the scales.
For example, his vote was the decisive factor in ensuring that the Supreme Court upheld the legalization of abortion and that three years ago the court gave homosexuals the right to marry in a landmark decision.
In the past few days, the court has faced allegations from the democratic side that it had become a stooge of Trump's politics. The Supreme Court decided with 5 to 4 votes that Trump's controversial entry ban for people from several countries was constitutional. A decision on trade unions was viewed with similar controversy on Wednesday.
Conservative nominated in Trump's first days of office
Kennedy's withdrawal isn't Trump's first opportunity to put his stamp on the court. Conservative judge Antonin Scalia had died during the tenure of his predecessor Barack Obama. With Merrick Garland, Obama nominated a moderate candidate for his successor. The Republicans in the Senate refused to give him a hearing, so that in the end he had no chance. Trump then nominated the Conservative Neil Gorsuch in his first few days in office, who was confirmed by the Senate. (dpa)
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