Anthony M. Kennedy’s Background and Education

Anthony M. Kennedy is a judge who has worked in the United States Supreme Court for several years. He was born in 1936 in Sacramento, State of California. His father was a graduate of the University of California and worked as an executive secretary to the Government of California. His mother was a secretary in the California Senate.

Kennedy attended C. K. Clatchy High School, and, thereafter, he went for further studies at Stanford University. While studying there, he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Then, he entered the London School of Economics where he spent the final years of the undergraduate program. He later joined Harvard Law School and finished it cum laude in the year 1961. During his studies in this institution, he served on the Board of Student Advisors (“Court History”).

The Law Practice

After finishing his studies at Harvard Law School, he started his law practice as an associate of San Francisco law firm Thelen, Marrin, Johnson & Bridges. When his father died in the year 1963, he took over his practice. For several years, until 1975, he worked in the field of the general law. His firm that was known as Evans, Jackson and Kennedy started from specializing only in litigation and corporate work for small businesses. It also focused on state administrative practice.

In 1966, Kennedy came to know Ronald Reagan who was elected as a Governor to the state. Working with him, Reagan asked Kennedy to draft an amendment concerning the taxing and spending powers of the State Government. The constitution at that time did not impose any permanent limits concerning these two aspects. This presented the best opportunity for Kennedy to exercise his knowledge of the law in the state administration. He worked closely with the governor in promoting and developing the law amendment proposal. The document was submitted in 1973 as a ballot proposal which was known as Proposition 1. Although it was defeated during the voting, it added much to the success of Proposition 13 which dealt with tax limitation initiative.

Appointments to Judgeship

The United States Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit, which had its opening in 1974, recommended Kennedy for the position of the judge in the Senate. Governor Reagan recommended him, and he was selected by President Gerald Ford. He was, thereafter, appointed by the Senate on April 1975. Kennedy was the youngest federal appeals judge in the country. His chambers were located at 555 Capitol Mall across the street from the United States District Courthouse in Sacramento.

In November 1987, Kennedy was nominated for the Supreme Court seat after Judge Robert Bork was rejected by the Senate. This occurred after Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. retired, and, therefore, there was a need for replacement. Kennedy was a conservative jurist who had not written any controversial articles or opinions and, thus, he was at the top of shortlisted potential nominees. Governor Reagan went ahead to propose Douglas Ginsburg, who was a former Harvard law professor and Justice Department official, but his initiative failed since the Senate rejected this candidate.

While working in the lower court, Judge Kennedy wrote an article where he criticized the police for bribing a child to show where the mother hid the drugs. He commented that such behavior was offensive and very destructive to the family. This article was a stepping stone to his success as a Supreme Court Judge.

The Makeup of the Supreme Court at the Time of the Appointment

The Supreme Court has two main divisions, that is, liberal and conservative. The liberal justices included John Paul Stevens (1975), David Souter (1990), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1993), and Stephen Gerald Breyer (1994). Conservatives, on the other hand, were comprised of Antonin Scalia (1986), John Roberts, Jr. (2005), Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas (1991). Judge Kennedy (who is the ninth justice) can be said to be a swing voter, and therefore, he can vote with either side of the Supreme Court. Being a swing voter is very important since various divisive matters are voted 5-4, and his vote is decisive. Upon approval, associate justices have life tenure unless they retire, resign, take senior status or are removed after the impeachment.

Kennedy’s Philosophy and Political Affiliation

The Republican president appointed Kennedy as a Supreme Court judge, but his ideology was not supposed to be limited to only one party. As stated above, Judge Kennedy was a swing voter; thus, he looked at cases individually instead of deciding them on a rigid ideology basis. He had a firm stand on the political arena of the United States. His philosophy concerning democracy was the pillar with the help of which justice found its course. In January 2010, the Supreme Court decided on the case of Citizens United versus Federal Election Commission which had implications for campaign finance law and the electoral process itself. Citizens United stated that political independent expenditures of corporations cannot be regulated or prohibited in any manner (Schaeffer).

Justice Kennedy had a unique approach to democratic governance trying to discern the contours and boundaries of the court’s new theory and doctrine. He attempted to protect the collective group so that he could safeguard the liberty of the individuals it is comprised of. He recognized the formal collective expression as the most effective conduit of today’s political support which encourages incorporation for the aims of political activities. Such a standpoint predicted Justice Kennedy’s position in his future cases (Schaeffer).

Kennedy mainly influenced the use of the constitution to streamline the judiciary and conduct of politics. In his First Amendment jurisprudence, he promoted a model of dialogue and political debate that springs from his own personal ideological and philosophical inclinations. He introduced the concept of individual liberty and the incorporation of democracy into the sphere of politics.

Duties and Performance on the position of the Supreme Court Judge

During his Supreme Court tenure, Kennedy contributed a lot in promoting justice and democracy in the law courts. He was never limited ideologically, though he was appointed by a Republican president. This independence made Kennedy examine cases individually and decide on them on the basis of ideologies.

Judge Kennedy presided over many cases that required his sound judgment in order to bring justice to the offender. He gave a detailed opinion on the case of County of Allegheny v. ACLU. He also expressed an opinion in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway in which he concluded that the town of Greece does not breach the First Review Establishment Clause by opening its meetings with sectarian prayer since it is in agreement with America’s tradition and does not force involvement by non-adherents (Greenburg 5).

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During his office tenure Kennedy presided over many cases which included the following:

1. Abortion Cases

In the case of Hodgson versus Minnesota in 1990, he upheld a firm decision to restrict abortion for minors that necessitated notification of both parents about the procedure to be undertaken. Kennedy agreed to join Oconnor’s plurality opinion in the year 1992 in the case of Planned Parenthood versus Casey. Under the due process, Kennedy reaffirmed the right to abortion basing on the Fourteenth Amendment.

2. Gay Rights and Homosexuality Cases

During his office tenure, Kennedy also presided over many cases on gay rights and homosexuality. In the case of Romer versus Evans in 1966, he wrote the court’s opinion invalidating a provision in the constitution of Colorado which denied homosexuals the right to raise local discrimination claims. He also wrote the opinion in 2003 in Lawrence v Texas, which concerned criminal laws against homosexuality overthrowing the ruling in the case of Bowers v. Hardwick. In these cases, he joined more moderate members of the court. In the case of Lawrence, the decision cited foreign laws especially those enacted by the Parliament and those of the European Court of Human Rights.

3. Capital Punishment

Kennedy gave an opinion on capital punishment in the case of Atkins v. Virginia and that of Roper versus Simmons. He agreed that the execution of the mentally ill and those who are below 18 at the time of the crime was illegal. He supported the opposition that challenged the general soundness of capital punishment. The judge also wrote the majority opinion in the case of Kennedy v Louisiana. When the idea went to state, it was concluded by the court that there is a difference between intentional and non-homicide crimes against persons even if one talks about child rape. Kennedy expressed the opinion that the death sentence should not be given out where the victim’s life was not taken (Greenburg 5-7).

4. Gun Control

Kennedy also joined the majority in the District of Columbia v. Heller which banned handguns in Columbia. The main question was whether Washington DCs prohibition violated the individual’s right to own arms at home while state militias could do it. He sided with conservatives stating that a person has a right to keep guns.


In the year 1974, the United States Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit recommended Kennedy for the position of a Judge in the Senate. He was appointed by the Senate on April 1975. In November 1987, Kennedy was nominated for the Supreme Court seat after Judge Robert Bork was rejected by the Senate. This occurred after Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. retired, and, therefore, there was a need for replacement. Judge Kennedy has been known to side with both conservative and liberal justices. While occupying the position of the Supreme Court Judge, he made several opinions that were of great significance in promoting justice and democracy in court cases. He was considered more pragmatic and less driven by ideologies than the others, which helped him to get the highest recommendation from the American Bar Association. Kennedy played a major role in advocating for equal treatment and application of the law. Although the justices have life tenures, they are endorsed by the elected officials, and, therefore, the Supreme Court is not impartial as far as politics is concerned. In addition, the justices have much influence, and, thus, the decisions they make attract much interest and cause a lot of discussions.

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