WATCH |Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy may be considering retirement sooner rather than later, according to clerks who are close to him. That means President Trump will get to nominate another Justice, but things could be much different this time around.
It's unclear when Kennedy -- who will be 81 in July -- would announce his retirement. Many speculated he would make the announcement Monday when the Justices had their final meeting for the spring term, but others think he could announce in the coming weeks or even next year.
Kennedy holds the crucial swing seat on the bench, casting the deciding vote on important cases that helped make same-sex marriage legal and protected abortion rights.
Back to the Senate
If Kennedy does decide to retire, President Trump will get to nominate another Supreme Court Justice, who will then need to be confirmed by the Senate. That would be a huge accomplishment for him and it could fundamentally reshape the court's balance for years.
It's likely that Trump will turn to his list of Supreme Court nominees from his presidential campaign. It's a sizable list, but some candidates stand out.
11th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge William Prior was one of Trump's top choices to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, and he's also one of the most controversial picks on the list.
Pryor is a favorite among conservatives for his views on abortion.
He once called Roe v. Wade, the pivotal 1973 abortion rights ruling, “the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history.”
He's also the former Alabama Attorney General and frequently spoke out against federal judges. He was appointed to the circuit court via a recess appointment from President George W. Bush after Democrats tried to block his nomination for over a year.
Thomas Hardiman, who sits on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, was another one of Trump's top choices for the Supreme Court earlier this year but was edged out by Neil Gorsuch in the end.
Hardiman was appointed to the circuit court in 2006 and has taken conservative views on multiple gun rights cases.
He has also supported the idea that campaign donations are a form of speech. He voted to strike down a law that prevented police from contributing to their union’s political action committee.
But in 2016 he dissented from a decision that struck down Philadelphia's ban on noncommercial advertisements in airports in a case which centered around a NAACP ad.
Diane Sykes of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is also rumored to be at the top of Trump's list and was also reportedly at the top of former President George W. Bush's short list.
Sykes served on Wisconsin's Supreme Court and has since voted on cases that have reshaped voting rights in that state. She voted to reinstate the state's voter ID laws just weeks before the 2014 general election.
At 59, Sykes is the oldest person on Trump's judicial list and he might decide to chose someone younger who will serve longer on the court.
Joan Larse, 48, is the youngest judge reported to be on Trump's list. If nominated and confirmed she could end up serving on the Supreme Court for three decades.
Larsen has the shortest judicial record of any of the candidates. She spent most of her legal career as a law professor at the University of Michigan before taking up a seat on the state's Supreme Court.
She also clerked for former Justice Antonin Scalia.
Earlier this year she recused herself from a lawsuit over Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s demand for a recount in Michigan, citing her inclusion on Trump’s short list.
Trump's nominee would still have to be confirmed by the Senate, and experts say Trump would be wise to choose a more centrist candidate that will take up the mantle as the swing vote if Kennedy retires.
"I think someone like that would be a more consensus nominee and they would have an easier time getting through the Senate than some of the more controversial choices on Trump’s supreme court list," said Billy Corriher, Deputy Director of Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress.
A different process
This time around, Trump will only have to convince Senate Republicans to support his nominee.
That's because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used the so-called "nuclear option" to eliminate the Senate's ability to filibuster Supreme Court nominees.
"I think that, the fact that we don’t have a filibuster means that we could a nominee that would be more conservative than we would have had otherwise," Corriher said.