Justice Anthony Kennedy Defined His Career at Center of Biggest Decisions

WASHINGTON—The retirement of Anthony M. Kennedy brings to an end the tenure of one of the Supreme Court’s most consequential modern-day justices, the author of landmark rulings on gay rights, the death penalty and campaign finance and one of the last bearers of the case-by-case jurisprudence and old-fashioned politesse that once marked the court.

In his typically low-key manner, Justice Kennedy held his plans close Wednesday, surprising even fellow justices when he announced his retirement at their private gathering following…

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