The New York Times Editorial Board is asking 81-year-old Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy not to leave the court amid rumors of his impending retirement.
In a open letter editorial published Saturday that took up the larger part of a page, the editorial board requests plainly: “Please don’t go.”
As the frequent tie-breaking decision of the court, Kennedy is “the most powerful member of the most powerful court in the country, as (he has) been for at least a decade,” the Times board remarks.
The editorial board says that Kennedy has sent “mixed signals” about his potential retirement, “but that hasn’t stopped Republicans in Congress from referring to your departure as a done deal.”
“They smell blood — if they can install another rock-ribbed conservative like (Supreme Court Justice) Neil Gorsuch, the court will have a locked-in right-wing majority for the rest of most of our lifetimes. They won’t even have to steal a seat to do it,” the editorial continues.
The Times calls Kennedy “an equal-opportunity disappointer,” but “as close to a centrist” the court has.
“Remember, the court has had a Republican-appointed majority since the early 1970s. If (President Donald) Trump gets the chance to fill your seat, it will be the most conservative court in nearly a century,” the editorial states.
The board also suggests that politics are at the heart of why the justice is considering retiring, and that public confidence in the court could diminish if he leaves, stating that “when that fails, the consequences can be dire.”
“Have past justices given a thought to politics when considering the timing of their exit from the court? Of course they have, whether or not they copped to it,” the editorial says. “But this moment is about so much more than partisan jockeying. We can’t know what is in your heart, Your Honor, but we do know what your departure right now would mean for the court, and for the nation. It would not be good.”
The Times piece comes just after the last Supreme Court argument session of the term, with several outstanding significant opinions to come on voting rights, religious liberty and public sector unions.
CNN’s Ariane de Vogue contributed to this report.