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By Daniel Arkin

Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement from the Supreme Court last month, provided a crucial swing vote in cases revolving around some of the most contentious issues in America, including abortion rights and gay marriage.

If he is replaced by President Trump's nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, the ideological balance of the high court will almost certainly shift to the right — cementing a solid 5-4 conservative majority for many years to come.

Kavanaugh, who serves on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, would become the second-most conservative jurist on the bench if confirmed, behind only Clarence Thomas, according to one measure that scores judges on a liberal-to-conservative spectrum.

Chief Justice John Roberts, for his part, would likely come to embody the ideological center of the nine-justice court.

Kavanaugh, 53, is widely expected to take more traditionally conservative positions on social issues — at least compared to Kennedy, who sometimes sided with his liberal colleagues on hot-button cases, including the 2015 ruling that legalized gay marriage nationwide.