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WASHINGTON, D.C. —  U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is headed for the exit. 

Kennedy announced his retirement today, effective at the end of July.  Kennedy turns 82 in July.  He has been on the high court since 1988 after being nominated by President Ronald Reagan. 

Kennedy is generally conservative but has been seen as a swing vote on the nine-member court.  Kennedy delivered the decisive vote in the Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 ruling allowing same-sex marriage.

A search for a new Supreme Court Justice starts immediately so said President Trump, who calls Kennedy a great justice. 

Trump said he hopes to pick a replacement who is just as outstanding as Kennedy.  The President noted that he’ll be working off a list of about 25 qualified candidates. He’s expected to nominate a judge with solid conservative credentials.

Kennedy’s retirement gives Trump the opportunity to lock in a conservative majority on the Supreme Court for many years. 

Kennedy is a native of Sacramento, California and is a graduate of the Harvard Law School.’

(PHOTO: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)