Trump’s Supreme Court Nomination is Hours Away
By Pawan Naidu
President Donald Trump is set to reveal his highly anticipated nomination to the Supreme Court. The President has said it is down to one of four candidates which include: Brett Kavanaugh, Thomas Hardiman, Amy Coney Barrett and Raymond Kethledge. The announcement is set for 9:00 p.m. ET.
The perceived front-runner is Brett Kavanaugh. For a president that likes to throw curveballs, this is the safest pick. Kavanaugh is considered the favorite because he would “move the court at least minimally right of its current position,” according to a December post at Empirical SCOTUSblog. The judge has an ability “to toe a moderate line while ruling predominately conservatively.”
With the midterms nearing, Trump might want to choose a candidate that would get an expedited confirmation process. Candidates like Barrett and Kathledge are more controversial and might bring on a lengthy confirmation process. Hardiman would also be a controversial pick because he worked with Trump’s sister, and he might not want to deal with cries of unfair treatment.
Let’s get to know the men and woman of the hour a little better.
Current position: Kavanaugh is a judge on the federal appellate court for the District of Columbia.
Education: Kavanaugh attended Yale University for both his bachelor’s and law degrees.
Distinction: Kavanaugh wrote roughly 300 opinions in 12 years as a judge and a raft of legal articles. This and his speaking engagements make him the most prolific of the prospective nominees.
Track record: Kavanaugh is widely viewed as a skilled, conservative judge on what is often called the second most powerful court in America. His opinions include several dissents that were later vindicated by Supreme Court majority opinions. Kavanaugh, who worked on the investigation that led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, later wrote that he thinks presidents shouldn’t have to deal with criminal investigations or civil lawsuits while in office — a view Trump might find attractive.
Private life: Kavanaugh is active in his local Catholic church and is a coach for his daughters’ basketball teams.
Support for nomination: Some social conservatives fear Kavanaugh isn’t committed to issues that matter to them, like abortion. They cite a recent case involving a pregnant teenage immigrant in federal custody. Kavanaugh would have delayed the teen’s abortion, in line with the Trump administration’s position, but another judge would have gone farther and declared that, as someone who is in the U.S. illegally, the teen had no right at all to an abortion. Kavanaugh’s close ties to the Bush family, stemming from his five years in the White House under President George W. Bush, might not be a positive to Trump, who has sparred with the Bushes. Kavanaugh also was a clerk for Judge Alex Kozinski, who retired abruptly last year as allegations of sexual misconduct grew.
Current position: Hardiman is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, hearing federal appeals from Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the Virgin Islands
Education: Hardiman was the first in his family to attend college, at the University of Notre Dame. He then paid for his law school education at Georgetown by driving a taxi.
Distinction: Hardiman was a runner-up when Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court in 2017. He might have appealed to Trump if the president is looking for someone from a blue-collar background.
Track record: Hardiman has some notable opinions in his 11 years on the appeals court that could appeal to Trump, including upholding strip searches of jail inmates, even those arrested on minor charges, backing collection of genetic evidence from people at the time of their arrest, and dissenting from a ruling that upheld gun regulations in New Jersey.
Private life: Hardiman’s judicial chambers are in Pittsburgh, where his wife comes from a family of prominent Democrats.
Support for nomination: Hardiman also was a colleague of Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, who stopped hearing cases last year. Some conservative groups don’t trust Barry because she wrote an opinion striking down a New Jersey abortion regulation in 2000, and they hope she has no influence over her brother’s choice.
Amy Coney Barrett
Current position: Barrett was confirmed by the Senate to a lifetime appointment on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals this past October. She considers federal appeals from Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois, and hears the cases in the Dirksen Federal Building courthouse in Chicago’s Loop.
Distinction: If Trump is looking to make history, Barrett could have some appeal. If she’s chosen and confirmed, it would be the first time four women would serve together on the nine-member Supreme Court. In addition, she is the youngest of the leading candidates, and Trump has said he wants his nominee to serve for decades.
Track record: Barrett’s recent ascension to the appeals court means she doesn’t have the long, conservative record that lawmakers on the right find reassuring. Barrett is also seen as a potentially divisive nominee because of statements she’s made about her Catholic faith and abortion. In her 20s, she co-authored a paper that said Catholic judges, if they are faithful to church teachings, are “morally precluded” from enforcing the death penalty. At her recent confirmation hearing, however, she said it was never permissible for judges to “follow their personal convictions in deciding a case.” More recently, she’s written that abiding by precedent is “not a hard-and-fast rule” in the Supreme Court’s constitutional cases. Although the statement is undoubtedly accurate, it is likely to be seized on by supporters of abortion rights as they try to convince moderate Republican senators that Barrett might vote to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which declares a woman’s constitutional right to abortion.
Private life: Barrett grew up in Louisiana. Even though her federal job is in Chicago, she lives in South Bend, Indiana, where her husband, Jesse, is an assistant United States attorney in the Northern District of Indiana, whose legal turf takes in Fort Wayne, Hammond, South Bend and Lafayette. They are the parents of seven children, two of whom are adopted from Haiti and a third – their youngest – a son with special needs.
Support for nomination: Barrett also served as a law clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who is beloved by conservatives. She recently made it through the confirmation process, with the Senate approving her nomination to be an appeals court judge in October. Three Democrats voted for her then.
Current position: Kethledge is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, presiding over federal appeals from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.
Education: Kethledge attended the University of Michigan for both his bachelor’s and law degrees.
Distinction: Kethledge knows the inner workings of Congress. For a year and a half in the 1990s, he was counsel to Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham of Michigan. If Kethledge is the nominee, that experience working for Congress could help in the customary courtesy visits to senators before a confirmation hearing.
Track record: Kethledge’s ten years as a federal appeals court judge give him a long record of conservative opinions that may make Trump and Republican senators feel secure about the kind of Supreme Court justice he’d be. He’s written opinions siding against unions in a dues collection case, admonishing the IRS in a case about its targeting of conservative groups, and okaying broad access by the government to cell phone location data, an opinion overturned last month by the Supreme Court. He’s also seen as a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.
Private life: Kethledge’s home is Michigan. He is married to Jessica Levinson Kethledge, who worked for the Red Cross. They have a son and a daughter. When back home, he works from an office he created in the family barn near Lake Huron.
Support for nomination: Kethledge left Washington to return to Michigan two decades ago. He probably has fewer friends in the nation’s capital than Kavanaugh, but Trump may put value on the fact he’s an outsider and less well known in Washington. In addition, that might have counteracted Trump’s desire to nominate someone from the Ivy League.