The retirement of Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan didn't come as a complete surprise at the Kansas University School of Law.
Robert Jerry, law school dean, said Brennan's retirement announcement Friday came several weeks after Brennan canceled a visit to KU that had been scheduled for September. Brennan cited health problems as the reason for canceling the visit, one of the reasons given for his retirement from the Supreme Court.
Francis Heller, professor emeritus of law, said it was apparent that Brennan had aged when he last visited KU about three years ago.
That visit to KU marked the first time Heller had seen Brennan in 12 years.
"I realized that he had become an elderly gentlemen," Heller said.
Both Jerry and Heller said Brennan's contributions to the Supreme Court stand out and will continue to do so.
"JUSTICE Brennan was a real leader on the court, wrote many path-breaking opinions and will go down in history as a gigantic presence on the court," Jerry said.
Brennan, who has served on the court for 34 years, led the liberal wing, which is likely to be reduced when President Bush picks Brennan's successor.
Of the three remaining justices on the liberal wing, Jerry noted that Justices Thurgood Marshall and Harry A. Blackmun also are at an age when retirement may not be far off.
"It's interesting to speculate if Bush is going to have a series of appointments to make that would dramatically impact the court," Jerry said.
Richard Levy, KU professor of law, said he believes the appointment of Brennan's successor likely will accelerate the trend of the court toward more conservative decisions.
BRENNAN consistently voted with the liberals on abortion, affirmative action and First Amendment issues, Levy said.
No matter who Bush appoint, Levy said, it is doubtful that the new appointee will consistently be as liberal as Brennan.
The impact of Brennan's resignation on the future direction of the court will depend on whether the new justice takes a moderate or strictly conservative stance when voting, Levy said.
"Supreme Court nominees are also notorious for not voting as people expect they will during the nomination process," Levy said.
The justices, he said, tend to vote according to what they believe the Constitution requires of them.