Former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s Memoir to Be Published This Fall

Justice Kennedy’s two-volume work comes out a month after Justice Jackson’s memoir.
Former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s Memoir to Be Published This Fall
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy sits for an official photo with other members of the U.S. Supreme Court at the Supreme Court in Washington on June 1, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
Matthew Vadum

Former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s two-volume memoir, recounting his early life in California and 30 years of service on the court, is set to be published in the fall.

Famous as the swing vote on the court before he retired in 2018, he wrote controversial opinions on same-sex marriage, campaign finance, and the detention of enemy combatants. Justice Kennedy also holds the distinction of being the only Supreme Court justice to have two of his former clerks—Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh—appointed to the court.

Publisher Simon & Schuster said this week that “Life and Law: The Early Years” and “Life and Law: The Court Years” will be published on Oct. 1. The memoir will be available as a boxed set and as individual editions, each weighing in at about 320 pages.

President Ronald Reagan appointed Justice Kennedy, now 87, in 1988, replacing moderate Justice Lewis Powell, who was appointed by President Richard Nixon, on the court.

Justice Kennedy wasn’t President Reagan’s first choice. Reagan nominee Robert Bork, accused by liberals of being too conservative, was rejected by the Senate. The president’s second nominee, Douglas Ginsburg, ran into trouble after reports surfaced that he had broken the law by smoking marijuana. He withdrew his nomination.

After moderate conservative Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired in 2006, Justice Kennedy became the swing vote on many of the 5–4 decisions issued by the court under current Chief Justice John Roberts. Before the Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He was appointed to that court in 1975 by President Gerald Ford.

During his time on the court, the moderate conservative justice wrote several bare-majority opinions in high-profile cases.

He authored the 5–4 decision in Boumediene v. Bush (2008), which held that noncitizens detained as enemy combatants at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were entitled to habeas corpus proceedings to determine the lawfulness of their detention.

He wrote the 5–4 opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), which held that the First Amendment forbids the government from outlawing independent expenditures for political campaigns by corporations, nonprofits, and labor unions.

Justice Kennedy authored the 5–4 opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states by finding that the due process clause and equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution guaranteed a fundamental right to marriage for same-sex couples.

He also co-wrote the controlling opinion in the splintered decision of Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) that clarified the court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade (1973). The court overturned Roe and Casey four years after he retired in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022), which found that there was no right to abortion in the U.S. Constitution. That ruling returned the regulation of abortion to the states, which Roe had taken away.

In the first volume, Justice Kennedy explains the judging process, according to the publisher’s announcement:

“The second volume is filled with moving portraits of Justices O’Connor, [Chief Justice William] Rehnquist, [Justice Antonin] Scalia and [Justice Ruth Bader] Ginsburg that go along with the account of how Kennedy decided his views in the landmark cases. But it is the first volume about his youth in Sacramento and his decade as a practicing lawyer that explains the judicial giant. Readers will see the child who turns into the man, who shaped America as much as any Washington figure in the 21st century.”

Justice Kennedy wrote in the preface to the first volume that his memoirs ended up being longer than he initially intended.

“It was my intent (my right hand is raised to swear it so) to recount my earlier years in a summary way. But something happened on the way to the pencil,” he wrote. “More and more of my recollections turned to how our society and its mindset changed in fascinating ways from the ’40s and ’50s to the ’60s and then again in the ’70s. This seemed relevant to the dynamics that influenced me and our larger society.

“As each day passes, we should strive to learn more about who we are and whom we should strive to become. Writing a memoir is a formal way to do this.”

Meanwhile, current Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s memoir, “Lovely One,” will be published by Penguin Random House on Sept. 3. The justice has said that her name, Ketanji Onyika, is an African name meaning “Lovely One.”

According to the publisher’s description, the author “invites readers into her life and world, tracing her family’s ascent from segregation to her confirmation on America’s highest court within the span of one generation.”

The liberal justice, 53, joined the court in June 2022 after being nominated by President Joe Biden. She replaced retiring liberal Justice Stephen Breyer.

Justices Kennedy and Jackson aren’t the only jurists with recent books.

Simon & Schuster published Justice Breyer’s memoir, “Reading the Constitution: Why I Chose Pragmatism, Not Textualism,” on March 26.

In it, the retired justice, 85, criticizes the increasingly conservative lean of the court that accelerated in the Trump years.