US high court looks to travel ban ruling and a possible retirement


In a highly watched religious liberty case, the court sided with a church that had sought a grant to put a soft surface on its preschool playground.

If the court settles the ban or other pending issues on Thursday, Americans will get valuable insight into the positions of the most recent justice to join the bench.

The cases include the rights of immigrants to court hearings while they face long periods of detention and the validity of a provision of immigration law that makes deportations easier.

ROBIN ROBERTS: There's growing speculation that Justice Kennedy could be announcing his retirement.

Kennedy is the swing vote on the Supreme Court, meaning he is the closest to the middle on the political ideology spectrum.

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KOTB: Real quick. Alright, so there are rumors that he - the Supreme Court judge may retire, maybe even announce it today.

There's been speculation about Kennedy's retirement since at least 2014, when the prospect of opening Supreme Court seats emerged as an early stake in the 2016 election.

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Kennedy has given no public sign that he would step down this year and give President Donald Trump his second high court pick in the first months of his administration.

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy is seen during a ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House April 10, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Earlier in the day Gorsuch, 49, was sworn in as the 113th associate justice in a private ceremony at the Supreme Court. Kennedy did not address the retirement rumors when he and his clerks gathered over the weekend for a reunion, according to three clerks who were there.

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The Supreme Court is letting the Trump administration mostly enforce its 90-day ban on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries, overturning lower court orders that blocked it.

His departure would cause a seismic shift and offer President Donald Trump a chance to continue reshaping the court. He's just one of the more likely suspects because of his age and the fact that the Notorious RBG has made it fairly clear that she's running up the high score record on the Supreme Court pinball machine and will be putting some space between herself and the next possible challenger.

The nine justices are due to rule in six cases, not including their decision expected in the coming days on the travel ban. In that case, Trump has ordered that the ban be implemented within 72 hours. They sparked global condemnation and threw travel from the targeted countries - Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - into turmoil.

The rumors have swirled for months and the 80-year-old justice has done nothing either personally or though intermediaries to set the record straight on whether he will step down.

Kennedy, a conservative who is known as the swing justice on the court because he often breaks a 4-4 tie between the conservatives and the liberals on the court, has oftentimes voted in line with the left-leaning justices on abortion rights and affirmative action.

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