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In later abortion decisions, it became apparent that Kennedy thought Casey had narrowed Roe and allowed more restrictions. Owing to the Court's altered composition under President Clinton, Kennedy was no longer the fifth vote to strike down abortion restrictions. Hence, O'Connor became the justice who defined the meaning of Casey in subsequent cases, while Kennedy was relegated to dissents in which he sought to explain what he thought Casey meant.

For example, Kennedy dissented in the decision in Stenberg v. Carhart , which struck down laws criminalizing partial-birth abortion. After the judicial appointments by President George W. Bush, Kennedy again became the needed fifth vote to strike down abortion restrictions. Since Kennedy's conception of abortion rights is narrower than O'Connor's, this led to a Court slightly more supportive of abortion restrictions after Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in 's Gonzales v.

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Carhart , which held that a federal law criminalizing partial-birth abortion did not violate Casey because it did not impose an "undue burden". The decision did not expressly overrule Stenberg , although many commentators saw it as having that effect. Kennedy's concept of liberty has included protections for sexual orientation. As early as , then-Judge Kennedy speculated that some homosexual behavior is constitutionally protected.

Evans , invalidating a provision in the Colorado Constitution denying homosexuals the right to bring local discrimination claims. In , he wrote the Court's opinion in Lawrence v. Texas , which invalidated criminal laws against homosexual sodomy on the basis of the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution , overturning the Court's previous ruling in 's Bowers v.

In both cases, he sided with the more liberal members of the Court. The decision in Lawrence also controversially cited foreign laws, specifically ones enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom , and a decision of the European Court of Human Rights , in partly justifying the result. In the case of Boy Scouts of America v.

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Dale , Kennedy voted, with four other justices, to uphold the Boy Scouts of America 's organizational right to ban homosexuals from being scoutmasters. On October 19, , Kennedy temporarily blocked Washington state officials from releasing the names of people who signed petitions calling for a referendum ballot measure that would repeal a gay rights domestic partnership law, but joined the subsequent majority decision in Doe v.

Reed , which stated the Washington law permitting signature release was constitutional, but remanded the matter to the lower court to determine whether the release of this particular petition's signatures was constitutional. In the case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez , the Court held that a public law college's policy requiring that all student organizations allow any student to join was constitutional.


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The Christian Legal Society wanted an exemption from the policy because the organization barred students based on religion and sexual orientation. Hastings College of Law refused to grant the exemption. The Court found that Hastings' policy was reasonable and viewpoint neutral.

Kennedy wrote a concurrence joining the majority. Walker 's ruling that overturned California's Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage, Walker "is not Anthony Kennedy. But when the chips are down, he certainly knows how to write like him. I count—in his opinion today—seven citations to Justice Kennedy's opinion in Romer v.

In a stunning decision this afternoon Walker trod heavily on the path Kennedy has blazed on gay rights. In the majority opinion on this case, Kennedy wrote, "The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

Two years later, Kennedy authored the majority ruling in the decision of Obergefell v. Hodges , which holds that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry nationwide.

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. With the Court's majority in Atkins v. Virginia and Roper v. Simmons , Kennedy agreed that the execution of the mentally ill and those under 18 at the time of the crime was unconstitutional.


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  • Anthony Kennedy.
  • Marsh , however, he declined to join the dissent, which questioned the overall "soundness" of the existing capital punishment system. In , Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in Kennedy v. The opinion, joined by the court's four more liberal justices, held, "[t]he Eighth Amendment bars Louisiana from imposing the death penalty for the rape of a child where the crime did not result, and was not intended to result, in the victim's death.

    The latter crimes may be devastating in their harm, as here, but in terms of moral depravity and of the injury to the person and to the public, they cannot compare to murder in their severity and irrevocability. On June 26, , Kennedy joined the majority in District of Columbia v. Heller , which struck down the ban on handguns in the District of Columbia. At issue was whether Washington, D.

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    Kennedy sided with the conservatives on the Court, holding that the Second Amendment recognized an individual's right to keep and bear arms. The decision came the day after the Court's ruling in Kennedy v. Louisiana , a capital punishment decision written by Kennedy, in which he sided with the liberal justices.

    Two years later, in McDonald v. Chicago , Kennedy joined the majority opinion holding that the Second Amendment 's protections for the right to keep and bear arms are incorporated against the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Kennedy wrote the majority decision in Coeur Alaska, Inc. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council , which involved an Alaskan mining company that planned to extract new gold from a mine that had been closed for decades using a technique known as "froth-flotation".

    This technique would produce approximately 4. The company intended to dispose of the waste in a nearby lake, which would eventually decrease the depth of the lake by fifty feet and flood the surrounding land with contaminated water. While federal law forbids "[t]he use of any river, lake, stream or ocean as a waste treatment system", Kennedy's decision stated that pollutants are exempt from this law so long as they have "the effect of Justice Ginsburg's dissent stated that such a reading of federal law "strains credulity" because it allows "[w]hole categories of regulated industries" to "gain immunity from a variety of pollution-control standards".

    On June 12, , Kennedy wrote the 5—4 majority opinion in Boumediene v. Kennedy was joined by the four more liberal judges in finding that the constitutionally guaranteed right of habeas corpus applies to persons held in Guantanamo Bay and to persons designated as enemy combatants on that territory. They also found that the Detainee Treatment Act of failed to provide an adequate substitute for habeas corpus and that the MCA was an unconstitutional suspension of that right.

    The Court also concluded that the detainees are not required to exhaust review procedures in the court of appeals before seeking habeas relief in the district court. In a concurring opinion, Justice Souter stressed the fact that the prisoners involved have been imprisoned for as many as six years. The majority wrote, "If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.

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    Justice Kennedy's opinion for the majority also noted that because the First Amendment does not distinguish between media and other corporations, these restrictions would allow Congress to suppress political speech in newspapers, books, television, and blogs. The Court also overruled that portion of McConnell that upheld BCRA's restriction of corporate spending on "electioneering communications". The Court's ruling effectively freed corporations and unions to spend money both on "electioneering communications" and to directly advocate for the election or defeat of candidates although not to contribute directly to candidates or political parties.

    On October 25, , Richard L. On the issue of the limits of free speech, Kennedy joined a majority to protect flag burning in the controversial case of Texas v. Kennedy has joined with Court majorities in decisions favoring states' rights and invalidating federal and state affirmative action programs. He ruled with the majority on Equal Protection grounds in the controversial Bush v. Gore case that halted continuing recounts in the presidential election and ended the legal challenge to the election of President George Bush.

    In the Gonzales v. Raich case, he joined the liberal members of the Court along with conservative Justice Scalia in permitting the federal government to prohibit the use of medical marijuana , even in states where it is legal. City of New London , he joined the four more liberal justices in supporting the local government's power to take private property for economic development through the use of eminent domain. Ayers , Kennedy wrote a partial dissent in which he argued that railroad workers who had contracted asbestosis from their employment should not be entitled to recovery for the emotional pain and suffering from their increased risk of cancer.

    Rees , Kennedy played a deciding role in the outcome of lethal injection. Some correspondents believed he would play a larger role, believing more than two judges would dissent. A December article in the Huffington Post noted that Kennedy dissented on an interpretation of the Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses, where a lab tech who created a forensic report on a case is required to testify at trial if called.

    His dissent, joined by Roberts, Breyer, and Alito, claimed that the rule would place a burden on understaffed labs.

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    However, in Williams v. Illinois , Kennedy sided with Scalia's interpretation of the amendment. Kennedy has reliably issued conservative rulings during most of his tenure, having voted with William Rehnquist as often as any other justice from to the end of the Rehnquist Court in After , when Sandra Day O'Connor , who had previously been known as the court's "swing vote", retired, Kennedy began to receive the title for himself. Kennedy is more conservative than former Justice O'Connor was on issues of race, religion, and abortion, and intensely dislikes being labeled a "swing vote".

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    On the Roberts Court, Kennedy often decides the outcome of a case. In the — term, he was in the majority 92 percent of the time. In the 23 decisions in which the justices split 5-to-4, Kennedy was in the majority in all but five. Of those 23 decisions, 16 were strictly along ideological lines, and Kennedy joined the conservative wing of the court 11 times; the liberals, 5.

    In the — term, 16 cases were decided by a 5—4 vote, and Kennedy joined the majority in 14 of the decisions. According to legal writer Jeffrey Toobin , starting in , Kennedy became a leading proponent of the use of foreign and international law as an aid to interpreting the United States Constitution.


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    According to David Savage, Kennedy had become a strong proponent of interpreting the guarantees of liberty and equality in line with modern human rights law: According to legal reporter Jan Crawford , Kennedy attracts the ire of conservatives when he does not vote with his more conservative colleagues. A short law review article by retired lawyer Douglas M. Parker in the legal journal The Green Bag [76] charged that much of the criticism of Kennedy was based upon " pop psychology ", rather than careful analysis of his opinions.

    Kennedy himself responds to concerns about judicial activism this way: Kennedy has been active off the bench as well, calling for reform of overcrowded American prisons in a speech before the American Bar Association. He spends his summers in Salzburg , Austria, where he teaches international and American law at the University of Salzburg for the McGeorge School of Law international program and often attends the large yearly international judges conference held there. Is that not because there's some underlying common mutual interest, some underlying common shared idea, some underlying common shared aspiration, underlying unified concept of what human dignity means?

    I think that's what we're trying to tell the rest of the world, anyway. In January , Kennedy recorded a short interview for Historic Mount Vernon about the vital role George Washington had played in the drafting and early interpretation of the Constitution. Kennedy is one of fourteen Catholic justices —of whom five sit on the Court as of [update] —out of justices in total in the history of the Supreme Court.