SACRAMENTO — Now that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement, he may be spending more time in Sacramento, according to a man who knows him well.
“He has lifelong friends here,” said Clark Kelso, a professor at the Pacific McGeorge School of Law. “I don’t think he’ll relocate but he will be a frequent visitor to the West Coast, including to Sacramento.”
Kennedy was born in Sacramento and graduated from McClatchy High School. After Harvard Law School, he came back to California, practiced law in Sacramento, became a professor at McGeorge and served on California’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals before his nomination to the Supreme Court.
Even as a Supreme Court justice, he made regular visits to McGeorge’s Sacramento campus, though the trips were kept quiet for security reasons.
“He’s been doing it pretty much every year,” Kelso explained. “He’ll drop in once or twice to classes and say hello and teach a class. He doesn’t just stop in and say hello, he’ll come in and take the students through some cases.”
Kelso predicts the retired justice may visit the campus for a full week of teaching in the coming year. The two men have known each other since the mid-1980s, when Kelso clerked for the then California Circuit judge.
“Even then it was clear that he was really sort of the intellectual middle of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals,” Kelso said.
Though he wasn’t aware the justice was planning to retire this year, Kelso was not surprised to learn the news.
“As much as possible, it is a non-political timing,” Kelso concluded. “End of the term, that’s when you do these sort of things.”
Kelso added that Justice Kennedy will soon be 82-years-old. He has a large family, including grandchildren, with whom he would like to spend more time and he’s retiring on his own terms.
“He’s very good at interacting with groups large and small,” Kelso said, suggesting Kennedy will still enjoy traveling and giving speeches.
Kelso describes his friend “Tony” as quite charming, charismatic and funny, a great speaker and storyteller with a self-deprecating sense of humor.
“He sees humor in the human condition and enjoys a good laugh,” Kelso added.
The future court may be very different following the loss of Kennedy’s frequent swing vote but Kelso predicts the justice will have a lasting impact.
“I think many of Justice Kennedy’s opinions will survive,” said Kelso. “Even with a more conservative member, there will be reluctance to quickly overturn lots of opinions.”