U.S. top court to rule on last cases as
talk about Kennedy swirls
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[June 26, 2017]
By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme
Court is set to issue the final rulings of its current term on Monday,
including one on religious rights, amid talk that swing voter Justice
Anthony Kennedy is considering retirement.
The court in the coming days is also expected to act on President Donald
Trump's emergency request seeking to revive his travel ban on people
entering the United States from six Muslim-majority countries, which was
blocked by lower courts.
Although there are no firm indications that Kennedy, 81 in July, will
step down, some of his former law clerks have said he is considering it.
Any announcement could come after the court has finished issuing its
rulings on Monday morning.
Kennedy has repeatedly declined to respond to media requests seeking
comment on his plans. He joined his former law clerks at a reunion event
on Saturday night, with several attendees saying he did not address the
If Kennedy were to retire, President Donald Trump, a Republican, would
have a historic opportunity to recast the court in a more conservative
posture, possibly for decades to come. He has already appointed one
conservative justice, Neil Gorsuch. But Gorsuch replaced a conservative
in a similar mold, Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last year. Replacing
Kennedy, the swing vote for the last decade on the closely divided
court, would be more significant. Kennedy has sided with the court's
four liberals on some major issues, most notably gay rights.
Speaking on ABC's "This Week" program on Sunday, Kellyanne Conway, a
Trump adviser, declined to say if there has been any communication
between the White House and Kennedy.
The nine justices are due to rule in six cases, not including their
decision expected in the coming days on the travel ban.
Of the remaining cases argued during the court's current term, which
began in October, the most eagerly awaited one concerns a Missouri
church backed by a conservative Christian legal group. The ruling
potentially could narrow the separation of church and state.
The church sued after being denied state taxpayer funds for a playground
improvement project because of a Missouri constitutional provision
barring state funding for religious entities.
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U.S. Associate Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy participates in
taking a new family photo with fellow justices at the Supreme Court
building in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Trinity Lutheran could be headed for a lopsided win, with two liberal
justices joining their conservative colleagues in signaling support
during the April oral argument. It was one of the first in which Trump's
conservative appointee to the court, Neil Gorsuch, participated.
The most notable of three immigration-related cases in which rulings
are due on Monday is a dispute over whether immigrants detained by
the U.S. government for more than six months while deportation
proceedings unfold should be able to request their release. The case
takes on additional significance with Trump ratcheting up
immigration enforcement, placing more people in detention awaiting
The court also is set to decide a case that could clarify the
criminal acts for which legal immigrants may be deported. Another
involves whether the family of a Mexican teenager shot dead while
standing on Mexican soil by a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Texas can
sue for civil rights violations.
As the justices look to finish work before their summer break, they
must decide what to do with Trump's travel ban, which was blocked by
lower courts. The administration wants the ban to go into effect
while the litigation continues.
The March 6 executive order called for a 90-day ban on travelers
from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and a 120-day ban
on all refugees entering the United States to let the government
implement stronger vetting. Trump has said the order is needed for
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley, Additional reporting by Andrew Chung;
Editing by Will Dunham and Phil Berlowitz)
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