Remembering Justice Kennedy

Now that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement, we can reflect on the illustrious and enigmatic career of one of the most important legal minds of this era. Justice Kennedy was a staunch defender of free speech and a pivotal swing vote for many monumental cases.

Kennedy helped write the opinion on most of the free speech cases and he typically ruled on the side of freedom of expressions. In the case of Packingham v. North Carolina he ruled that it unconstitutional for states to prohibit pedophiles from using certain social media sites, declaring that the internet is a vital medium for free speech. Also he was in the majority in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union which struck down provisions restricting "indecent speech" over the internet.

Perhaps his most decision was Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in which he ruled that campaign finance was a type a speech, ultimately protected by the first amendment. This allowed for corporations and private citizens to donate as much money as they want to support or denounce electoral candidates.

Kennedy was a conservative justice but was not beholden to any one particular political party; rather he chose to vote by his own rigid ideology. When the court had four liberal justices and four conservative, Kennedy was often the crucial swing vote that would decide the outcome. In 2008-2009 he was part of the majority decision 92% of the time, then in 2010-2011 over 87% of time. It would be hard to argue that there was any one person that affected the legal world more than Anthony Kennedy.


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