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Justice Kennedy reportedly tells clerk applicants he may retire in 2018

Rumors of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's forthcoming retirement are swirling, and though Kennedy has yet to make any public statement of his plans, NPR reports he is privately suggesting a retirement date in 2018 or 2019 — safely within President Trump's first term and thus guaranteeing Trump a second SCOTUS seat to fill.

"While he long ago hired his law clerks for the coming term," the story notes, "he has not done so for the following term (beginning Oct. 2018), and has let applicants for those positions know he is considering retirement." A Reagan nominee who has often served as a swing voter in the court's most controversial cases, Kennedy's departure will significantly change the face of the court, especially if he is replaced by a conservative in the mold of Trump's first pick, Neil Gorsuch.

Gorsuch himself is the primary focus of the NPR piece, which dubs him "probably even more conservative than the justice he replaced, Antonin Scalia." The few votes he has cast so far are identical to those of Justice Clarence Thomas and very close to the record of Justice Samuel Alito.