Justice Anthony Kennedy, a crucial swing vote on the Supreme Court, announced Wednesday he's retiring at the end of July, giving President Donald Trump another chance to fundamentally reshape the highest court in the land.
His departure could have massive effects on U.S. policy, particularly on abortion rights and gay rights nationwide. His announcement immediately raised questions about how long the court would stand by its earlier abortion rulings, including Roe v. Wade.
In a statement, the Supreme Court said the 81-year-old Kennedy will step down effective July 31. The judge called it "the greatest honor and privilege to serve our nation in the federal judiciary for 43 years, 30 of those years in the Supreme Court." Kennedy wants to spend more time with his family, even though they were content with him staying on the court.
He also sent a letter to Trump on Wednesday notifying the president of his decision. The court adjourned for the summer earlier in the day.
"For a member of the legal profession, it is the highest of honors to serve on this Court," he wrote. "Please permit me by this letter to express my profound gratitude for having had the privilege to seek in each case how best to know, interpret and defend the Constitution and the laws that must always conform to its mandates and promises."