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If you like Anthony M. Kennedy's story, you might also like:
David Boies,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
Rudolph Giuliani,
Alberto R. Gonzales,
Frank M. Johnson,
George J. Mitchell,
Ralph Nader,
Anthony Romero,
Albie Sachs,
Barry Scheck,
John Sexton and
Antonio Villaraigosa

Anthony M. Kennedy's recommended reading: Nineteen Eighty-Four

Related Links:
Supreme Court of the United States

The Supreme Court Historical Society

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Anthony Kennedy
Anthony Kennedy
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Anthony Kennedy Biography

Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

Anthony Kennedy Date of birth: July 23, 1936

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  Anthony Kennedy

Anthony McLeod Kennedy was born and raised in Sacramento, California. His father, Anthony J. Kennedy, a former dock worker from San Francisco, had worked his way through law school and built a substantial practice as a lawyer and lobbyist in the state capital. Young Anthony Kennedy enjoyed following his father on his business rounds and developed an early taste for the world of government and public service. After school hours, he served as a page boy for the California State Senate.

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Anthony Kennedy graduated from Stanford University, spending his senior year at the London School of Economics. After graduating cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1961, he served for a year with the California Army National Guard. He accepted a job with a law firm in San Francisco, but when his father died unexpectedly in 1963, Kennedy returned to Sacramento to take charge of his father's firm. In addition to his law practice, Kennedy pursued a lifelong interest in legal education. From 1965 until his appointment to the Supreme Court more than 20 years later, he was a Professor of Constitutional Law at the McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific.

As a prominent attorney in Sacramento, Kennedy attracted the attention of then-Governor Ronald Reagan. When a seat on the United States Court of Appeals fell vacant, Governor Reagan recommended Kennedy to President Gerald Ford. President Ford appointed Kennedy to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1975. At age 38, Kennedy was the youngest federal appeals judge in the country. His record on the federal bench was generally a conservative one, but Kennedy approached each case on an individual basis, and showed more interest in adhering to the letter of the law than in proclaiming an all-embracing theory of jurisprudence. As a federal judge, he also participated in the Judicial Conference of the United States, serving on the Advisory Committee on Codes of Conduct, from 1979-1987, and chairing the Committee on Pacific Territories from 1982 to 1990. In 1987 and 1988, he also served on the board of the Federal Judicial Center.

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In 1987, Associate Justice Lewis Powell retired from the United States Supreme Court. President Reagan first nominated Robert Bork to replace Powell, but the nomination was rejected by the Senate after an unusually contentious debate. President Reagan's second nominee for the Supreme Court seat, Douglas Ginsburg, withdrew his name from consideration when a controversy erupted over his admission of past marijuana use. In 1988, entering the last year of his presidency, President Reagan was determined to name a candidate who would be assured of confirmation, and turned to his old Sacramento acquaintance Anthony Kennedy, who was perceived as more pragmatic and less driven by ideology than the two failed nominees. Kennedy received the highest possible recommendation from the American Bar Association and the United States Senate confirmed his appointment by a unanimous vote. Kennedy took his seat as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court on February 18, 1988.

After joining the Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy often sided with the Chief Justice, the late William Rehnquist. He has generally shared Rehnquist's conservativism on criminal law issues, voting to uphold the constitutionality of workplace drug-testing for railroad workers after accidents, and for employees of the U.S. Customs Service. On other issues, he has favored the right to personal privacy over the state's police power. Kennedy wrote the Court's opinion invalidating a provision in the Colorado Constitution denying homosexuals the right to bring local discrimination claims. In 2003, he wrote the majority opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, invalidating the criminal prohibitions against homosexual activity between consenting adults. He joined Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and David Souter in a plurality opinion in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), which re-affirmed the Roe v. Wade decision recognizing the right to abortion while permitting some state restrictions. On the other hand, Kennedy has joined with Court majorities in several decisions favoring states' rights and capital punishment and invalidating federal and state affirmative action programs.

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In addition to the awesome responsibility of sitting on the nation's highest court, Justice Kennedy carries on a remarkable series of educational activities. He has lectured in law schools and universities throughout the United States and in other parts of the world, particularly China, where he is a frequent visitor. Following the 2003 defeat of Sadam Hussein's regime in Iraq, Justice Kennedy designed a three-day educational program for the country's senior judges. An educational exercise he called "Dialogue on Freedom" has been used by over a million high school students throughout the United States. He has also written an exercise for attorneys and law students entitled "The Trial of Hamlet," in which forensic psychiatrists testify regarding the criminal responsibility of Shakespeare's hero.

In 2013 the Supreme Court considered two historic cases concerning same-sex marriage. One case, U.S. v. Windsor, turned on the federal "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA), which denied federal recognition to same-sex marriages performed under state law. The second case concerned California's Proposition 8, a referendum question, approved by the state's voters of California in 2008, which amended the California constitution specifically to bar local jurisdictions from performing same-sex marriages. After two lower courts found this measure unconstitutional, the Governor and Attorney General of California accepted the lower courts' decisions and declined to press the matter further. The proponents of the original measure pursued the matter to the federal Court of Appeals and to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Anthony Kennedy Biography Photo
In a five-to-four decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the proponents of Proposition 8 lacked legal standing to pursue the matter in federal court because they had suffered no "concrete and personalized injury." Justice Kennedy dissented from this opinion, writing for the minority that the Court did not "take into account the fundamental principles or the practical dynamics of the initiative system..." Both the majority and minority opinions addressed only the plaintiff's standing, not the constitutionality of the California statute.

In the DOMA case, the Court did address a constitutional issue, again in a five-to-four decision, but in this case Justice Kennedy led the majority. "The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State (of New York), by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity," he wrote, speaking for the majority. "By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment."

In June 2015, the Court took further action, once again dividing five to four, and asserted the right of gay couples to marry throughout the United States. Writing for the majority in Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Kennedy wrote, "The court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them." Justice Kennedy's ability to come to his own conclusions in these related -- but very different -- cases, based on his understanding of the law, without bias or partisanship, is characteristic of his honest and dedicated service to the Court and to his country.

(The Honorable Anthony M. Kennedy, Justice of the United States Supreme Court, addresses the 2014 International Achievement Summit in San Francisco.)

This page last revised on Jun 26, 2015 10:32 EDT
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