First, there should be a lesson in this for Kennedy’s successor. Kennedy was often said to have suffered from the “Greenhouse Effect,” a phrase popularized by D.C. Appeals Court Judge Laurence Silberman to describe judges whose decisions seemed motivated by their need for approval from former New York Times legal reporter Linda Greenhouse. Whoever moves into Kennedy’s chambers should be on notice that “growing” like a plant won’t stop him or her from being tossed from the elite hothouse into a snowbank the second that person stops being useful to the Left.
The second lesson should be for Chief Justice John Roberts. Progressives hope, and conservatives fear, that Roberts is “growing” his way into becoming Kennedy’s true heir. As BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner describes it, Roberts “has etched out a position of conservatism that sometimes values the interests and stability of the Supreme Court and federal government more broadly to a greater degree than political conservatives might wish to see.”
If Roberts truly sees himself as an institutionalist, the reaction to Kennedy’s retirement should be instructive.