Anthony Kennedy was born in Sacramento, California, and attended Stanford University, graduating from there in 1958 and from Harvard Law School in 1961. In 1976, President Gerald Ford appointed Kennedy to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where he served for twelve years. While on that Court he also served on the Board of Directors of the Federal Judicial Center.
On this day in history, Anthony Kennedy was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Senate confirmed the appointment on February 3, 1988. He took the oath of office on February 18, 1988.
Following the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2016, Kennedy became the most senior Associate Justice on the court. He has also been the swing vote on many of the Court’s 5-4 decisions.
Dana Milbank, writing for the Washington Post, opined:
He’s no King Solomon, but Kennedy, the perpetual swing vote, may be the dominant lawgiver of his day. Unlike Alito and Clarence Thomas (and, to a lesser extent, Chief Justice John Roberts), he recognizes the importance of public consensus on cultural issues, such as the growing acceptance of gay marriage. On abortion, which chronically divides Americans, Kennedy has avoided destabilizing change.”
In New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore wrote in June, 2016:
Kennedy’s power as the king of a divided Court was aptly summarized by conservative writer John Podhoretz, who tweeted: “Everybody’s upset about Brexit, but basically the United States is now being governed by one 80 year old man.” [Kennedy turned 80 in July 2016.]
You can see a list of Kennedy’s memorable opinions here.