Anthony Kennedy left an indelible mark on American society in his three decades as a mild-mannered and professorial justice on the U.S. Supreme Court in areas as varied as gay rights, abortion, the death penalty and political spending.
Kennedy, who announced his retirement on Wednesday at age 81, became the swing vote on the ideologically divided court after fellow traditional conservative Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired in 2006. He was the most centrist of the five conservatives currently on the court and was willing to join the liberal justices in major cases, although he delivered strongly conservative opinions in others.
“His jurisprudence prominently features an abiding commitment to liberty and the personal dignity of every person. Justice Kennedy taught collegiality and civil discourse by example,” conservative Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement.
“His work has made an impressive contribution to the development of the law in many fields, and he will surely be remembered as one of the most important justices in the history of the court,” added conservative Justice Samuel Alito.