On Wednesday 27 June 2018, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. The move, while not unlikely coming from the 82-year-old jurist, was unexpected, and set the capital buzzing, with Democrats and Republicans quickly forming ranks and preparing for the grueling political battle ahead. Keeping his decision a secret until the last possible minute, Kennedy hand-delivered his letter of resignation to the White House.
Kennedy was a conservative Justice, appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1988. But he was also a loose cannon, someone who did not walk in lock-step with the GOP and could be relied upon as a swing vote, with liberal social views and opinions sometimes at variance with the conservative bloc on the Court. After the retirement of Sandra Day O’Connor in 2006, Kennedy’s became the crucial vote in all close decisions. With the Court split 4-4 along entrenched ideological lines, whichever way Kennedy’s wind blew would carry the day.
The results have been a mixed bag. Without Kennedy’s vote, we would have had a President Gore, so no 9-11, no Iraq War, and a more serious approach on climate change. But we wouldn’t have marriage equality, either, and abortion rights would be under greater siege than they already are. Kennedy allowed the spigots to be thrown open wide for corporate spending in politics, in the Citizens United decision, but prevented the executions of the mentally ill and those who were minors at the time of their crimes. He struck down DC’s handgun ban in the Heller case, but ruled that detainees at Guantanamo Bay had a right to legal representation. In his final year on the court, Kennedy reverted to his conservative roots, and sided with his Republican brethren on all 14 cases which came down to a 5-4 vote, including recent decisions gutting union revenues, supporting state efforts to disenfranchise voters, and upholding the Trump travel ban.
Kennedy’s departure at this time couldn’t be worse timed, from the progressive viewpoint. A strongly conservative majority will hamper the cause of liberalism in the Court for decades, and could have immediate implications for Donald Trump’s political viability. Just how do you suppose the new Court, with two of his appointees, will rule on matters such as presidential defiance of a subpoena, or whether Trump can legally pardon himself?
Kennedy’s decision to retire may have taken the public at large unawares, but to any astrologer keeping an eye on his transits (and I must ruefully admit that this subset doesn’t include me), the choice is clear. Kennedy (born 11:28 PM PST 23 July 1936, Sacramento, California, Rodden Rating AA) currently has transit Pluto exactly on his MC at 20 Capricorn. The MC, or Midheaven, defines the start of the Tenth House, ruling career matters, and also reflects our status or place in the world. With Pluto here, Kennedy was ripe for a major change. As well, the Mars station at 9 Aquarius, just the day before his retirement, fell exactly on his natal asteroid Antonia (for “Anthony”), signaling a very personal (PNA Antonia) decision about a major shift (station) in how he uses his energies (Mars). Indeed, Kennedy, whose health is reported to be good, has cited a desire to spend more time with family while he can still enjoy them as a motivating factor in his timing.
[As an aside, note that Kennedy’s own PNA placements conform to the typical pattern, of connections to the Sun, Moon or Ascendant. Natal Antonia at 9 Aquarius squares the 5 Taurus Ascendant and opposes the Sun at 1 Leo; natal Kennedy at 19 Taurus is sesquiquadrate the 6 Libra Moon, ruling family inheritance, which the surname defines.]
Unfortunately, right alongside Mars is asteroid Pandora at 8 Aquarius, and the Pandora’s Box of unintended consequences released by Kennedy’s retirement could well leave us with not even Hope to cling to. Transit Pluto is also squaring natal Pandora at 18 Libra, and in trine to natal asteroid Kennedy at 19 Taurus, opposing natal Mars at 18 Cancer, all while exactly inconjunct natal asteroid Justitia at 19 Leo. Justitia is named for the Roman goddess of justice, and is the root of our word “justice”; its exact square natally to Kennedy prefigures his eventual job title. Transit Pluto’s involvement here signals major changes for Kennedy personally (asteroid Kennedy), of a positive nature for him (trine), in the form of an adjustment (inconjunct) to his position as Associate Justice (Justitia), and again calls into question the use of his energies (Mars), as well as intimating the confrontation to result from his act (also Mars) and the Pandora’s Box (Pandora) it unleashed.
Kennedy spent a full Saturn cycle on the Court, with his Saturn Return on the job occurring during his final term. Sworn in on 18 February 1988, Kennedy’s SCOTUS tenure chart sports an exact pairing of Saturn and Uranus at 0 Capricorn, perfectly describing the delicate balance he preserved between competing conservative (Saturn) and progressive (Uranus) interests. That this battle would become focused on him personally, in his capacity as the swing vote, is seen in the close conjunction of transit asteroid Kennedy with this pair, from 3 Capricorn.
This area of the chart has been grist to transit Saturn’s mill of late, returning to its “natal” degree in Kennedy’s job chart in December 2017, conjoining his job Kennedy in January 2018, and coming to station in April at 9 Capricorn, exactly atop the job’s Neptune, which co-rules retirement (as a form of retreat from the world). The traditional ruler of retirement was Saturn (in the sense of “withdrawal” or self-demotion), so Kennedy had this coming and going. His decision was announced just after the transit Sun/Saturn opposition had perfected, at 5 degrees of Cancer and Capricorn, lending the Sun’s intense focus to the issue. A T-Square to Atropos at 7 Libra, named for the mythic Greek Fate who severs the thread of life at death, refers to an ending, a metaphoric “death” of career (Saturn), if you will.
Kennedy’s somewhat unexpected progressive bent on some issues (I doubt Reagan ever envisioned him as establishing gay marriage in the nation when he made his appointment) is easy to see from the conjunction of Uranus at 9 Taurus with the 5 Taurus Ascendant. Quirky and unpredictable, but with a strong sense of equality and fairness, Kennedy kept everyone guessing, and the reaction to his controversial (Uranus) decisions from the losing side could be quite volatile (Uranus again). Further encouraging this inscrutability is a pairing of asteroid Sphinx at 18 Taurus, denoting an enigma or puzzle, with natal Kennedy at 19 – Anthony Kennedy was hard to read, and likely reveled in that quality of mystery and impenetrability.
Another indicator of judicial fluidity is seen in the exact conjunction of Kennedy’s natal Neptune with asteroid Themis, named for the Greek goddess of justice, at 14 Virgo. This squares natal Jupiter, ruling judges generally, and the Supreme Court in particular, at 15 Sagittarius. It also forms a T-Square with Kennedy’s natal asteroid Troemper at 14 Pisces; natal Atropos and Requiem, another point suggesting endings (named for the funeral mass for the dead), cluster about Neptune/Themis at 10 and 19 Virgo, and it’s interesting that, while all things must end, Kennedy chose to terminate his stint on the SCOTUS once Trump (Troemper) became the man to replace him. (Transit Neptune at 16 Pisces, ruling retirement, is also within orb of natal Troemper and opposing natal Neptune/Themis.) Atropos in particular also speaks volumes for his judicial decision to curtail the death penalty.
Asteroids America and Whitehouse at 1 and 3 Scorpio are camped on the 5 Scorpio Descendant; again, interesting in light of his pivotal role in redefining marriage (ruled by the Seventh House, for which the Descendant forms the cusp) for the nation (America). Whitehouse here suggests a hand-in-glove relationship with the various occupants of the Oval Office. The connection with Trump specifically is demonstrated, not just by that Justitia/Troemper opposition in the birth chart, but by the fact that transit Troemper and Antonia appear in the same degree for his retirement, 29 Virgo.
Whitehouse was pivotal for his swearing-in as well, with this asteroid representing the presidency at 16 Sagittarius, conjoined natal Jupiter and squared natal Themis (uniting the potential for this judge/Jupiter becoming a Justice/Themis with the office responsible for that elevation/Whitehouse), but also combining in the transit sky with Antonia at 18 Pisces (opposing natal Themis, personalizing this particular career path for him), and Nemesis at 15 Virgo (conjoining Themis), which indicates Kennedy’s adversarial role as the antagonist on the Court, the one who needed to be propitiated for success. At his retirement, transit asteroid Washingtonia was energizing the job Antonia from 19 Pisces, while transit Themis at 17 Gemini filled in the T-Square nicely, creating a Grand Cross. Transit asteroid Kennedy at 11 Sagittarius is broadly within this pattern, and more closely squares the natal Atropos/Justitia/Neptune conjunction, with his act of abnegation (Neptune) ending (Atropos) his career as Justice (Themis).
When the retirement was made public, transit Mercury at 27 Cancer, ruling the news, was exactly conjoined Kennedy’s natal Pluto and exactly opposed the US Pluto at 27 Capricorn. His decision (Mercury also) devastated (Pluto) the left and further empowered (also Pluto) the right.
Of course, this retirement transforms the Senate, already pretty serpentine, into a virtual snake pit. The battle royal in the offing can be seen in the opposition of asteroids Michela and McConnell (for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell), both at 8 Aries, to asteroid Schommer (closest to Schumer, for Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader) at 13 Libra. The concomitant opposition from transit Pluto at 20 Capricorn to asteroid America at 18 Cancer suggests that, whatever the outcome, the country will be transformed.