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Justice Kennedy, the pivotal swing vote on the Supreme Court, announces retirement

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Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced Wednesday that he is retiring from the Supreme Court, a move that gives President Trump the chance to replace the court’s pivotal justice and dramatically shift the institution to the right, setting up a bitter partisan showdown on Kennedy’s successor.

“It has been the greatest honor and privilege to serve our nation in the federal judiciary for 43 years, 30 of those years on the Supreme Court,” Kennedy, who is stepping down July 31, said in a statement.

Kennedy, 81, joined the court in 1988 and has been its most important member for more than a decade. The Californian, who was chosen by President Ronald Reagan, has cast the deciding vote on the court’s controversial Citizens United campaign finance decision, the constitutional right to same-sex marriage and the continued viability of affirmative action.

On almost every major issue that has faced the court in recent years, neither the court’s liberal, Democratic-appointed justices nor Kennedy’s fellow ­Republican-appointed conservative colleagues could prevail without his swing vote.

His decision likely will make Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. the central justice on the nine-member court. Roberts, 63, has shown himself to be well to the right of Kennedy.

Washington could be in for an epic battle over Kennedy’s replacement. While Senate Democrats lack the numbers to deny the seat to whoever Trump chooses, they will ratchet up the stakes of the choice.

It will be the first time since Justice Clarence Thomas replaced Thurgood Marshall more than 25 years ago that a new justice could radically change the direction of the court. Since then, new members added to the court have replaced justices of the same general ideology.

Kennedy is a courtly presence on the court, with a gentlemanly demeanor and a jurisprudence based on the respect the Constitution provides for individual liberty and dignity.

He was a compromise choice for Reagan, who had first nominated the more controversial conservative Judge Robert Bork for the position. The Senate voted him down.

Kennedy has been a disappointment to the right, which has been unable to forgive his vote to uphold the basic underpinnings of Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed a woman’s right to choose an abortion. And Kennedy has written each of the court’s major gay rights decision, including Obergefell v. Hodges, which said the Constitution requires that gay couples be allowed to marry.

Liberals came to value Kennedy because he was the best they could hope for. But Kennedy most often votes with the court’s conservatives: He is further to the right on law-and-order issues than Justice Antonin Scalia was, he is comfortable with the court’s protective view of business, and he shared the losing view that the entire Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

His belief that campaign finance regulation often violates free speech was exemplified in his authorship of the opinion in Citizens United, which has opened the door for an explosion of big money in elections.

Whoever Trump nominated to fill Kennedy’s seat will likely share those views, but not his liberal opinions on social issues.

Trump convinced evangelicals and other conservatives to support him based on the next president’s ability to shape the Supreme Court, a promise he has already begun to fulfill. Early in his term, he successfully place conservative Neil M. Gorsuch on the bench, and he could have the chance to fill more openings.

Of the court’s four liberals, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 85 and Justice Stephen G. Breyer turns 80 this summer.

Gorsuch’s appointment returned the court to the status quo that existed before Scalia died. But a court without Kennedy would be a different place.

With Kennedy on board, a five-member majority struck down a Texas law that it said used protecting women as a pretext for making abortion unavailable, and the court continued a limited endorsement of affirmative action.

Many if not all of those holdings would be at risk in a court with five consistent conservatives, the oldest being 69-year-old Justice Clarence Thomas.

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David Ortiz’s First Interview Since Shooting, Says He Almost Died

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David Ortiz broke his silence with the media since being shot in the Dominican Republic, and he gave an emotional interview … acknowledging he almost died there.

The former Boston Red Sox slugger spoke with Univision in a sit-down that aired in Spanish on Saturday, answering a number of questions related to the scary incident in his home country this past June — when he was ambushed and shot in the back at a club.

Big Papi described the initial feeling of the bullet going in, saying he felt a stinging sensation … adding that in the first five seconds, he felt like he was in a living nightmare. He said the shooting made him disheartened, as he has no problems with anybody.

Ortiz went on to explain that he never lost consciousness en route to the hospital, but said he experienced something he’d never quite felt before … trying to survive for his life.

He says he’s never had his life threatened before, and that him sitting with his back to the street and no security around should be an implication … he’s not someone who’d ever think he was in danger. Then came the question about who did it … and why.

Ortiz says he has no idea why anyone might’ve wanted to kill him, again reiterating that he has no enemies … and no issues with anybody (especially criminals) that would make him worry.

Big Papi also touches on a rumor that Dominican drug lord Cesar Emilio Peralta might’ve been the one who ordered the hit, but he again came back with uncertainty … saying he couldn’t think of any reason why that would be the case — if, in fact, it is.

As we reported … authorities in the Dominican Republic have made several arrests in connection to the shooting, including the alleged shooter himself. Cops say that Ortiz was not the actual target, and that the hit was a case of mistaken identity.

Ortiz is unclear on that himself, but one thing that clearly hurt him as he was in the hospital … people apparently suggesting that he deserved what he’d gotten. He tears up as he recounts the recovery process, saying that at one point he was in a coma … and almost died.

Luckily, Big Papi is getting better each day. He threw out the first pitch at a recent Sox game — and seems to be doing well following multiple life-saving surgeries.

Still, it’s pretty gut-wrenching to hear it all again from the man himself.

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Justin Bieber Shared a Photo of Hailey Baldwin With ZERO Makeup and She Looks Amazing

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It’s been a year since Hailey and Justin Bieber tied the knot!

The 22-year-old model celebrated her first year of marriage with the “As Long As You Love Me” singer on Friday night, sharing a handful of photos of the two on her Instagram Story. In Hailey’s first pic, she gives Justin, 25, a kiss on the cheek while they are in an elevator.

“1 year of being your Mrs.,” the blonde beauty captioned the sweet snap. She continued posting a slew of other pics, including a black-and-white photo of the Canadian crooner hugging her from behind, which she captioned, “My heart.”

Hailey and Justin secretly got married at a New York City courthouse last September. A couple of weeks later, a source confirmed to ET that the two were indeed husband and wife.

“The couple kept their marriage a secret from a lot of people. Justin and Hailey wanted to be married and didn’t want to wait. They still plan to have a more formal wedding, but for them, this intimate ceremony was exactly what they wanted,” the source said at the time. “Justin and Hailey were telling people they weren’t married when they were.”

The two are also set to have a second wedding with their friends and family later this month in South Carolina. Another source told ET this week that the couple is “gearing up for the event of their lives.”

“They wanted to celebrate their love and unity in front of the people they love, especially God,” the source said.

According to the source, the ceremony will be as private as possible and will incorporate family. “The [wedding] will be …. a fairy tale with over the top flowers, lights, and an all-around party,” the source added. “The couple is planning to make it a family affair with Hailey’s sister and Justin’s brother, sister, and dad being incorporated. Justin has been through a lot in the past with his family, and he is looking forward to celebrating the special day with everyone.”

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Britney Spears’ Dad Jamie Officially Steps Down as Her Conservator

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Britney Spears’ father, Jamie Spears, has officially stepped down as the singer’s conservator.

After previously petitioning the court to hand over the reins of the singer’s conservatorship citing ongoing health issues, a judge on Monday approved the request and appointed Britney’s longtime care manager, Jodi Montgomery, as the singer’s new conservatory, according to court documents obtained by ET.

According to the documents, Jodi Montgomery has been temporarily granted the same powers previously granted to Jamie, including the power to restrict and limit visitors by any means — provided that Jodi will not prevent Britney from meeting with her court-appointed attorney — and the power to retain caretakers and security guards for Britney on an around-the-clock basis.

The new conservatory will also have the power to prosecute civil harassment restraining orders that Britney deems appropriate, and she will have the power to communicate with all expert medical personnel treating Britney, as well as access to any and all records regarding Britney’s medical treatment, diagnosis, and testing.

According to the court documents, Montgomery will serve as Britney’s temporary conservator until Jan. 31, 2020, after which time her role as temporary conservator could be extended.

Jamie has been the 37-year-old singer’s conservator since 2008, and he became her sole conservator this year after his former co-conservator, attorney Andrew Wallet, resigned in March.

ET has reached out to attorneys for both Jamie and Britney for comment.

The legal filing comes after Britney’s two sons — Sean, 13, and Jayden, 12 — were granted a temporary restraining order against Jamie, a source told ET on Wednesday. The source claimed that an incident occurred on Aug. 24, in which Jamie allegedly “engaged in conduct that was physical abuse” toward Sean. According to the source, the very next day, Kevin Federline — Sean and Jayden’s father — and Federline’s divorce attorney, Mark Vincent Kaplan, filed a police report at the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.

According to Kaplan, “Britney recognized the children were in a dangerous situation and she demonstrated the correct parental judgment by removing them from it.” ET also reached out to Federline’s attorney on Friday.

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