supreme court justice anthony kennedy
Associate
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy joins other justices of the U.S.
Supreme Court for an official group portrait at the Supreme Court
Building in Washington, Thursday. June 1,
2017.

Associated Press/J. Scott
Applewhite


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court enters its final week of work
before a long summer hiatus with action expected on the Trump
administration’s travel ban and a decision due in a separation of
church and state case that arises from a Missouri church
playground.

The biggest news of all, though, would be if Justice Anthony
Kennedy were to use the court’s last public session on Monday to
announce his retirement.

To be sure, Kennedy has given no public sign that he will retire
this year and give President Donald Trump his second high court
pick in the first months of his administration. Kennedy’s
departure would allow conservatives to take firm control of the
court.

But Kennedy turns 81 next month and has been on the court for
nearly 30 years. Several of his former law clerks have said they
think he is contemplating stepping down in the next year or so.
Kennedy and his clerks were gathering over the weekend for a
reunion that was pushed up a year and helped spark talk he might
be leaving the court.

“Soon we’ll know if rumors of Kennedy’s retirement are accurate,”
one former Kennedy clerk, George Washington University law
professor Orin Kerr, said on Twitter Friday.

When the justices take the bench Monday, they are expected to
decide the case of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri,
which was excluded from a state grant program to pay for soft
surfaces on playgrounds run by not-for-profit groups. The case is
being closely watched by advocates of school vouchers, who hope
the court will make it easier to use state money to pay for
private, religious schooling in states that now prohibit it.

Missouri has since changed its policy under Republican Gov. Eric
Greitens so that churches may now apply for the money.

Also expected in the next few days, though there’s no deadline by
which the court must decide, is a ruling on whether to allow the
administration to immediately enforce a 90-day ban on visitors
from six mostly Muslim countries.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, could
play a pivotal role in both the travel ban and church playground
cases.

In all, six cases that were argued between November and April
remain undecided. Three of those, all involving immigrants or
foreigners, were heard by an eight-justice court, before Gorsuch
joined the bench in April.

If the eight justices are evenly divided, those cases could be
argued a second time in the fall, with Gorsuch available to
provide the tie-breaking vote.