Speculation abounds. That’s a bit odd, since President Trump before his nomination of Neal Gorsuch to the Court released a list of 25 Supreme Court possibles. Gorsuch was one of those. But who is left? And who has the best shot?
Today let’s look at our top 6 that — surprisingly enough AFTER this story was written — was agreed to on the Sunday FOX & FRIENDS morning show.
Brett Kavanaugh, former Kennedy clerk
Kavanaugh was a late add to Trump’s list of potential nominees, but many believe the 53-year-old judge who sits on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit might be the favorite. He was born in Washington, DC, and served in the George W. Bush administration. He also served as a lawyer for Kenneth W. Starr during the investigation concerning President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Most recently, he was in dissent when his court upheld an opinion requiring the government to facilitate an abortion for an undocumented teen in US custody. Kavanaugh clerks often go on to clerk for Supreme Court justices.
Thomas Hardiman, runner-up for Gorsuch seat
Hardiman, who serves on the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals, has a personal story that appeals to the President. The 52-year-old judge was the first in his family to graduate from college, and for a time he drove a cab. Born in Massachusetts, he attended the University of Notre Dame as an undergrad and then went to Georgetown University Law Center. Sources said he was the runner-up for the Gorsuch seat. His judicial paper trail includes a dissent in a case where the majority upheld a New Jersey law that prohibits handgun possession without a permit. To bolster his opinion, Hardiman cited Scalia’s landmark opinion in DC v. Heller. If Trump has questions about Hardiman’s personality, he can always ask his own sister, who also sat on the 3rd Circuit.
Amy Coney Barrett, former Notre Dame professor
A former clerk to Scalia, Barrett was Trump’s pick for a seat on the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals.
Born in 1972, she served as a professor of law at her alma mater, Notre Dame. She’s a mother of 7 — 2 of who were adopted, one is special needs.
During her confirmation hearing, she had a contentious exchange with Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, who asked her about past writings concerning faith and the law. At one point, Feinstein asked Barrett if the “dogma lives loudly in her.” Supporters of Barrett suggested Feinstein was attempting to apply a religious litmus test to the nominee.
Joan Larson, former University of Michigan professor
She serves on the 6th Circuit Court of appeals. She served on the Michigan Supreme Court. She was in the same confirmation hearing as Judge Amy Coney Barrett in which California Senator Diane Feinstein launched into some anti-Catholic allegations and rhetoric that shocked many. Before joining the Michigan courts she clerked for former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Amul Thapar, former District Judge
Was the first South Asian-American to serve as federal judge and serves on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. His judicial experience includes extensive presiding over actual trials. That’s something many Supreme Court justices do not have. He was on the President’s list even when he was a district judge. he was then elevated to the Appeals Court by President Trump.
Raymond Kethledge, serves on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals
He is from Michigan. He is known for writing his opinions so that non-legals have no problem understanding the detail. He has 9 years of serving on the Court. He is likened often to Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. He is very thoughtful and deliberate in his hearings and his findings. Kethledge like Gorsuch is an originalist and launches into exhaustive detail in his opinions regarding their Constitutional basis.
No doubt the one of these (or any other judge) that is confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace retiring Judge Anthony Kennedy will face major pressure in upcoming SCOTUS sessions — probably far more than their predecessor or even their fellow judges. Why?
Anthony Kennedy was nominated and confirmed as a conservative judge. However, in his 30 years or so serving on the High Court, he often has come down in agreement with the liberal side on some cases. That has been a surprise to many who expected his support to be conservative. Pro Life cases that came before the court many thought would serve to attack Roe v. Wade, primarily because Kennedy is Catholic and therefore assumed by most to be Pro-Life. But he is NOT.
Liberals are in shock at Kennedy’s retirement, primarily because in doing so President Trump has the chance to — in the words of Senator Cory Booker — “stack the Court” and attack womens rights as Roe v. Wade will certainly be overturned by this Court.
Of course that paranoia is unsubstantiated and is actually damaging to the Supreme Court. I know of no nominee to the High Court that has ever been put to a litmus test for any “hot” issue — especially not abortion. Just like it is assumed that the 6 listed above are conservative and would — if a Roe v. Wade case before the Court — support a Pro Life position, it was assumed so to would former justice Anthony Kennedy.
What the Left is missing is that whoever gets confirmed for the position needs NOT hold positions on issues for Senators, the President, or even the general public to know prior to confirmation hearings. What is critical for every member of the judiciary is that they be true Constitutionalists who stick to the nuts and bolts of the foundational structure for the American legal system and all its laws.
Yes, there is opinion always in rendering verdicts from the bench. But doesn’t every American use opinion every day in their lives in simply living? Any person who tells you they have NO opinion on any issue like abortion, Pro Choice, or Right to Life is certainly not telling the truth. Each judge on the High Court has personal opinions on everything. And EVERY judge on EVERY Supreme Court in U.S. history has had personal opinions on EVERY issue that comes before the Court. But they find ways to reconcile the decisions they render without letting that opinion cloud the decision. Supreme Court decisions must be based SOLELY on the U.S. Constitution and its position on each case. I’m certain that anyone of the 6 listed here will have no problem doing so.
For our friends on the Left: this process is NOT about Democrat or Republican, Conservative or Liberal, Male or Female, Black or White. This process is about qualifications and an ability to lay aside personal political positions and opinions to allow the law from the U.S. Constitution be the only factor in each decision they make from the bench.
If it ever becomes about SCOTUS members’ opinions, the U.S. Justice System has died. And so will the Nation.