Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy's decision to retire from his post on the high Court at the end of July is a seismic event for social liberals.
A crucial swing vote on the court, Kennedy penned major rulings protecting free speech, limiting the death penalty, defending immigrants and supporting affirmative action. His legacy as a defender of the rights of gays and lesbians is the strongest in the court's history.
But the effect of the 81-year-old justice's retirement on economic issues? American businesses may not even notice.
"My expectation on the business and labor side is that it really is not going to matter," said Matt Bruenig, president of the People's Policy Project, a leftist think tank. "His history as a conflicted character on the court has been the history of someone who, in the political realm, might be described as fiscally conservative and socially liberal."
On issues that mattered to large American businesses, Kennedy sided with employers over labor, often casting the key vote in 5-4 rulings.
On crucial questions affecting the way companies negotiate with their employees, what kind of individuals they are prohibited from discriminating against and the legality of giant mergers, it's likely that Kennedy's successor, who President Donald Trump has said would come from a list his administration compiled of 25 conservative jurists, will vote exactly the same way Kennedy would have.
In his last term, Kennedy sided with conservatives in two of the most important labor questions in recent memory. In Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, Kennedy was with the 5-4 majority holding that employers can forbid their workers from joining certain class-action lawsuits. In Janus v. AFSCME, Kennedy joined the four other Republican-appointed justices in dealing a blow to public sector labor unions, overturning a 40-year-old precedent in the process.
Kennedy's retirement "doesn't portend much disruption," said Andrew Grossman, a conservative legal scholar and a partner at the law firm Baker & Hostetler.
"Justice Kennedy by and large was a pro-business jurist," Grossman said. "The doctrines that he followed, from arbitration, to pre-emption, to contract rights — it’s difficult to imagine that there will be much change given the people the president said he is choosing from."