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Anthony Kennedy is an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court who was appointed by Ronald Reagan.
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Born on July 23, 1936 in Sacramento, California, Anthony Kennedy went on to graduate from Harvard Law School and teach constitutional law. He joined the U.S. Court of Appeals in the mid-'70s and in 1988, after being appointed by Ronald Reagan, became a Supreme Court justice. He’s known for his conservative views while also having sided with decisions that focused on individual rights.
Anthony McLeod Kennedy was the second child born to Anthony J. Kennedy and Gladys McLeod. His father started out as a dock worker in San Francisco and worked his way through college and law school to build a substantial practice as a lawyer and lobbyist in the California legislature. His mother was active in civic affairs. As a young boy, Kennedy came in contact with prominent politicians and developed an affinity for the world of government and public service.
An honor student for much of his high school years at McClatchy High School in Sacramento, California, Kennedy graduated in 1954. Following in his mother’s footsteps, he enrolled at Stanford University. There he became enthralled with constitutional law and was said by one of his professors to be a brilliant student.
Kennedy completed his graduation requirements in three years and attended the London School of Economics for a year before receiving his bachelor's degree in political science from Stanford University in 1958. He then attended Harvard Law School, graduating cum laude in 1961. He subsequently served a year in the California Army National Guard.
In 1962, Kennedy passed the bar exam and practiced law in San Francisco and Sacramento, California. When his father died unexpectedly in 1963, Kennedy took over the law practice. That same year, he married Mary Davis, who he had known for several years. Together, they would have three children.
Just after starting at the law office, Kennedy began acting on what would be his lifelong interest in education. He accepted a position as professor of constitutional law at the University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law, where he taught from 1963 to 1988.
In his years of private practice, Kennedy followed his father’s political affiliation in the Republican Party. He worked as a lobbyist in California and became friends with Ed Meese, another lobbyist with close ties to Ronald Reagan. Kennedy assisted then-Governor Reagan in drafting Proposition 1, a ballot initiative to cut state spending.
Though the proposition failed, Reagan was very appreciative for the assistance and recommended Kennedy to President Gerald R. Ford for an appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. At 38, Kennedy was the youngest federal appeals court judge in the country.
During the Carter administration, the Ninth Circuit gained a majority of liberal thinking judges and Kennedy became the head of the court’s conservative minority. His calm demeanor and friendly personality kept the deliberations civil on the often divided court.
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The Supreme Court has presided over landmark cases that have changed the history of the United States. At times, the judges themselves have been the history makers, as in the case of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Justice; Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court; and Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. Here’s a look at the famous judges who have served on the United States' highest court.
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