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Vt. Delegation Concerned Kennedy's Retirement Will Tilt Supreme Court Far To The Right

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch stands looking at Justice Anthony Kennedy in April 2017.
Carolyn Kaster
Associated Press
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy - seen here, right, at the April 2017 public swearing-in ceremony for Justice Neil Gorsuch, left - announced Wednesday that he intends to retire from the court at the end of July.

Vermont’s congressional delegation reacted with concern today over the announcement by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy that he will retire at the end of July.

Kennedy — seen as a moderate, swing vote on the court — will be replaced by a nominee chosen by President Donald Trump.

Sen. Patrick Leahy said Trump has made it clear that he intends to nominate a person who has a political agenda that mirrors his own, and the senator said making such a political appointment will damage the independent nature of the court.

Leahy serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will consider the eventual nominee, and he said many important issues could be overturned by a justice who meets Trump's litmus tests.

"I think what it means is consumers and workers — vulnerable Americans — will be set aside in favor of the wealthy and the powerful," Leahy told VPR. "Certainly a woman's right to choose would be gone, and I suspect the right to marry may be overturned in some states."

Leahy said the president should not nominate, nor should the Senate confirm, a candidate until after the November elections because that's the same process the Republicans used when the court had a vacancy late in President Barack Obama's last term in office.

In a statement, Sen. Bernie Sanders echoed the call that any nomination to replace Kennedy should wait until after the election. Sanders said he hopes Republicans will “oppose any nominee who would deny any woman the right to choose.”

Rep. Peter Welch released a brief written statement:

“Justice Kennedy’s retirement could cement a right wing court for a generation. All of us who care about civil rights, civil liberties, women’s rights, getting dark money out of politics and more should make our voices heard in any way we can. Immediately.”

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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