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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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MO’NIQUE SUES NETFLIX FOR DISCRIMINATION

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Mo’Nique is finally taking her accusations against Netflix for discrimination to a court of law … she’s filed a lawsuit.

In the suit, the Oscar-winning actress and comedian accuses Netflix of race-based discrimination for how it negotiated a comedy special with her. She says Netflix offered Amy Schumer $11 million for an hour-long stand-up special (she eventually got $13 mil), but only offered Mo’Nique $500,000 for her stand-up special.

Mo’Nique never accepted their offer, and went on a public campaign … which included coming on “TMZ Live” and calling for a boycott against the company.

According to the suit, she claims Netflix has a severe lack of diversity, which contributes to their discriminatory practices. Specifically, she claims one Netflix exec. — the Chief Communications Officer — used the n-word in a meeting with 60 people in 2018. Mo’Nique was not present for that meeting.

She also claims Netflix allowed Kevin Spacey to use the n-word while on the set of “House of Cards” without any consequence. In the suit, she alleges Spacey complained to his personal security guards, “I don’t want [n-words] on my set anymore.” She’s not suing Spacey.

Mo’Nique also used a major pay gap on the Netflix hit, “The Crown,” to illustrate alleged discrimination. She says the actress who plays Queen Elizabeth II was paid $14k per episode less than the actor who played Prince Philip — and it only righted the wrong after there was a public outcry about it.

She’s suing Netflix for unspecified damages, and for an injunction forcing the company to change its discriminatory policies.

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Beverly Hills Cop’ Sequel With Eddie Murphy Jumps to Netflix in Licensing Deal With Paramount

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Netflix has acquired the rights to shoot a new sequel to “Beverly Hills Cop” from Paramount, with star Eddie Murphy and producer Jerry Bruckheimer attached, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish announced Thursday.

The original 1984 action-comedy film, starring Murphy as a quick-witted, trash-talking Detroit cop who investigates his friend’s murder in Beverly Hills, was a huge hit for the studio — and spawned sequels in 1987 and 1994. The three films grossed $736 million worldwide.

Paramount had been developing “Beverly Hills Cop 4” for years — but pulled the project from its release slate in 2016.

In recent years, the studio has made deals with Netflix for completed films, selling “Cloverfield: God Particle” to the streamer for an early 2018 release and offloading overseas rights to the Natalie Portman sci-fi film “Annihilation” after a 17-day U.S. theatrical window. But it’s an unusual move for a studio to license its own IP for an unfinished film.

In recent months, Paramount parent company Viacom has shown an increasing willingness to make revenue-generating deals on its library of content rather than hoard those rights for its own internal streaming services as rivals like Disney, Comcast’s NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia have done.

This week, Viacom’s Nickelodeon announced a multiyear output deal for films and TV series with Netflix. And last month, the company sold the exclusive streaming rights to Comedy Central’s “South Park” to WarnerMedia’s HBO Max in a deal worth at least $500 million.

The “Beverly Hills Cop” deal also comes as Netflix has helped to revive Murphy’s career with its new release “Dolemite Is My Name,” which has generated awards season chatter. The star is also shooting the sequel to another Paramount comedy hit, 1988’s “Coming to America,” that’s due for theatrical release next year.

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The 10 top-earning actresses made almost $300 million less than their male peers this year

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For the second year in a row, Scarlett Johansson is Hollywood’s highest-paid actress, having earned $56 million between June 1, 2018 and June 1, 2019.

According to Forbes’ list of the 10 highest-paid actresses of 2019, most of Johannson’s earnings come from her role as Black Widow. She was the only woman in “Endgame” granted an eight-figure salary up front, as well as 5% earnings on the back end.

Johannson, along with the other nine actresses on the list, including Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon, earned a collective total of about $315 million over the past year. Though that’s a 69% increase from the previous year, Forbes reports that it’s still significantly less than the top 10 highest-paid actors, who collectively earned almost $600 million over the same time period.

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