“At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” This near-kitsch description comes from Justice Anthony Kennedy, US Supreme Court justice whose resignation sent Democrats screeching and Republicans chortling with opportunity.
There was a general registered lament from the fearful that Justice Kennedy’s retirement had ended what was, at least in some circles, a terrible period in US jurisprudence punctuated by odd moments of sensible, even delightful refrain. It was, he relayed to President Donald Trump in a letter, “the highest of honors to serve on this Court”, and expressed “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.”
In being nominated by President Ronald Reagan in November 1987, Kennedy came as a mere third choice in the aftermath of Justice Lewis Powell’s retirement. Robert Bork of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit failed to impress the Senate, and his nomination sank by a vote of 42 to 58. Douglas Ginsberg came next, but fell foul because of his use of marijuana as an adult. The whirligig of time did the rest.
It is worth iterating that Reagan was confident enough with his third choice to claim he had gotten a “true conservative”, though Kennedy seemed to…