WASHINGTON — Justice Anthony M. Kennedy has served for more than 30 years under two chief justices: William H. Rehnquist and John G. Roberts Jr. Courts are by tradition named for the chief justice. Since 2005, it has been the Roberts court.
华盛顿——安东尼·M·肯尼迪（Anthony M. Kennedy）任大法官三十余载，历经威廉·H·伦奎斯特(William H. Rehnquist)法院和小约翰·G·罗伯茨(John G. Roberts Jr.)法院。按照传统，最高法院以时任首席大法官的名字命名，自2005年起为罗伯茨法院。
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But if influence were the deciding factor, it would be more accurate to speak of the period since 1988 as the Kennedy court.
Justice Kennedy has occupied a place at the court’s ideological center for his entire tenure, though he shared the middle ground with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor for most of his first two decades. On her retirement in 2006, his vote became the undisputed crucial one in most of the court’s closely divided cases.
在整个任期内，肯尼迪大法官身居最高法院的意识形态中心点，尽管他在任期前20年的大部分时间里同桑德拉·戴·奥康纳(Sandra Day O’Connor)一起站在中间派立场。待到2006年奥康纳退休，他的这一票就无可争议地成了最高法院大多数势均力敌的案件中的关键。
There have been about 51 decisions in which Justice Kennedy joined a liberal majority in a closely divided case, while Chief Justice Roberts dissented. All of those precedents could be in jeopardy, said Lee Epstein, a law professor and political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis.
在大约51项双方势均力敌的判决中，肯尼迪大法官加入了占多数的自由派，而罗伯茨首席大法官则站在反对的一方。圣路易斯华盛顿大学(Washington University)的法学教授、政治学者李·爱泼斯坦(Lee Epstein)说，所有这些判例都有可能陷入险境。
To be sure, Justice Kennedy often voted with the court’s conservatives. He wrote the majority opinion in Citizens United, which allowed unlimited campaign spending by corporations and unions, and he joined the majority in Bush v. Gore, which handed the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush. Justice Kennedy also voted with the court’s conservatives in cases on the Second Amendment and voting rights.
当然，肯尼迪大法官也经常站在保守派一方。他起草了联合公民(Citizens United)一案的多数意见书，该判决允许公司和工会无限制地向竞选活动投入资金。在布什诉戈尔案(Bush v. Gore)中，他站在多数派一方，将2000年总统选举赢家判给了乔治·W·布什(George W. Bush)。在有关第二修正案和投票权的案件中，肯尼迪大法官也投票支持最高法的保守派。
Not infrequently, though, he joined the court’s liberal wing in important cases on contested social issues, including liberal decisions on gay rights, abortion, affirmative action and the death penalty. A court containing two Trump appointees could chip away at those rulings.
Mr. Trump has vowed, for instance, to appoint justices committed to overruling Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. That would not happen overnight if another Trump appointee joined the court, but aggressive restrictions on access to abortion would very likely be sustained.
比如，1973年的罗诉韦德案(Roe v. Wade)的裁决确立了堕胎的宪法权利，然而特朗普发誓要任命否决该裁决的大法官。虽然这种事不会在一夜之间发生，但是如果另一个被特朗普任命的法官加入最高法院，对堕胎的严格限制很可能会持续下去。
The vote count in the court’s most recent abortion case is telling. In 2016, when the court was short-handed after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Kennedy joined the court’s four-member liberal wing to strike down a restrictive Texas abortion law. That ruling would almost certainly have come out differently from a court without Justice Kennedy and with two Trump appointees.
The right to same-sex marriage seems more secure, and Mr. Trump has said he considers the issue settled. But a court including a second Trump appointee would be quite unlikely to expand gay rights and would instead be receptive to arguments from religious groups that object to same-sex marriage.
According to a court spokeswoman, Justice Kennedy told his colleagues on Wednesday of his decision to step down, effective July 31.
“It has been the greatest honor and privilege to serve our nation in the federal judiciary for 43 years, 30 of those years on the Supreme Court,” Justice Kennedy said in a statement.
In a letter to Mr. Trump, Justice Kennedy, 81, 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.”
That language — earnest, flowery, a little mystical — was characteristic of his judicial writing, which was not to everyone’s taste.
Justice Kennedy’s opinions were studded with vague and soaring language.
“At the heart of liberty,” he said in a 1992 decision upholding the constitutional right to abortion, “is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe and of the mystery of human life.”
Phrases like that infuriated his critics, notably Justice Scalia. In a 2003 dissent, Justice Scalia mocked “its famed sweet-mystery-of-life passage,” calling it “the passage that ate the rule of law.”
Justice Kennedy’s final opinions on the court had a valedictory quality. He wrote an inconclusive decision in a clash between a baker and a gay couple, and he joined a pair of decisions ducking the question of whether the Constitution prohibits partisan gerrymandering.
Justice Kennedy valued civility and dignity, and the Trump years seemed to take a toll. In Tuesday’s decision upholding Mr. Trump’s travel ban, he seemed to chide the president for incivility even as he said the courts could do nothing to force him to behave with the decorum Justice Kennedy prized.
“There are numerous instances in which the statements and actions of government officials are not subject to judicial scrutiny or intervention,” he wrote. “That does not mean those officials are free to disregard the Constitution and the rights it proclaims and protects.”
“The oath that all officials take to adhere to the Constitution is not confined to those spheres in which the judiciary can correct or even comment upon what those officials say or do,” he wrote. “Indeed, the very fact that an official may have broad discretion, discretion free from judicial scrutiny, makes it all the more imperative for him or her to adhere to the Constitution and to its meaning and its promise.”
A new Trump appointee would almost certainly vote with the court’s most conservative members, thrusting Chief Justice Roberts into the court’s ideological center. The chief justice has drifted slightly to the left in recent years, but aside from two votes sustaining President Barack Obama’s health care law, it is hard to point to a major decision in which he disappointed political conservatives.
“Should Roberts become the median, the court could move well to the right, taking its place as the most conservative court in modern history,” Professor Epstein said.
In the Supreme Court term that just concluded, Chief Justice Roberts already seemed to be moving to the court’s center, voting with the majority in divided cases more often than any other justice. The term yielded an extraordinary run of conservative rulings, including blockbusters upholding Mr. Trump’s travel ban and dealing a sharp blow to public unions.
“This term gave us a preview of what the Supreme Court would be like if Chief Justice Roberts were to become the swing vote,” said Leah Litman, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. “Progressives will lose, and they will lose a lot, except in a few criminal cases.”
“本次任期让我们提前看见了如果首席大法官罗伯茨成为了摇摆票的话，最高法院会是什么样子，”加州大学欧文分校(University of California, Irvine)法学教授利亚·利特曼(Leah Litman)说。“进步派会输，除了几起刑事案外，他们会输掉很多案子。”
Legal experts struggled to recall a recent example of a chief justice who was also the swing justice.
Justice Kennedy himself did not like to be called the swing justice. “The cases swing,” he said in 2015 at Harvard Law School. “I don’t.”
That was correct. His jurisprudence contained an idiosyncratic mix of commitments, but they were fixed and strong, and they yielded vigorous opinions, very often speaking for the majority.
“Every day you’re not in the majority you think is a dark day,” he told C-Span in 2009. By that standard, Justice Kennedy had very few dark days.