UPDATED: President Donald Trump has nominated Neil Gorsuch, 49, as the Supreme Court justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia. Read more about this breaking story here.
With the nation reeling from controversy surrounding President Donald Trump’s immigration executive order, there’s yet another announcement coming on Tuesday that’s sure to spark debate: his Supreme Court nominee to fill the seat of the late Antonin Scalia.
So far, numerous outlets report there are three leading contenders for the nomination — federal appeals court judges who were all nominated to their positions by President George W. Bush. All three are young and, as Trump pledges, they each subscribe to conservative ideals. He is set to announce his pick tonight at 8 p.m.
I have made my decision on who I will nominate for The United States Supreme Court. It will be announced live on Tuesday at 8:00 P.M. (W.H.)
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2017
NPR has more about the two apparent frontrunners:
The two who seem to be at the head of the line are Neil Gorsuch, a well-regarded 49-year-old judge on the appeals court based in Denver, and Thomas Hardiman, a popular 51-year-old judge on the appeals court based in Philadelphia. Hardiman is said to be well-liked by Maryanne Trump Barry, the president’s sister, a judge on the same Philadelphia court.
Gorsuch and Hardiman seem in some ways to be the flip sides of each other: Gorsuch is a scholarly Ivy Leaguer and Hardiman is a longtime litigator with lots of experience trying cases, who is said to have a “practical approach.”
Gorsuch, 49, attended Columbia University and Harvard Law School, and is described by NPR as a “reliable conservative,” who is diplomatic and a good listener; he currently serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. And, as it turns out, he has ruled on important religious freedom cases, including Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius and Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Burwell.
“Some of the most high-profile cases in which Gorsuch has cast a vote have involved the religion clauses of the Constitution (those prohibiting the establishment of religion and creating a right to free exercise), as well as congressional statutes expanding protection for religious adherents (known as RFRA and RLUIPA),” the SCOTUS blog reported.
Hardiman, 51, who went to Notre Dame and Georgetown Law, is a pro-Second Amendment judge who is Catholic and is described as smart and down to earth; he currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. He, too, has taken some positions many conservatives are likely to applaud, though some right-leaning activists are worried that there might be certain areas in which he isn’t quite conservative enough, as Vox noted.
“During his nearly ten years as a federal appeals court judge, Hardiman has weighed in on a variety of hot-button topics important to Republicans, and his votes in these cases have consistently been conservative,” the SCOTOS blog wrote. “For example, the gun rights cases in which Hardiman has participated reflect an originalist approach to the Second Amendment right to bear arms.”
Read more about both of these judges here.
The third name said to be on the short list is 54-year-old William H. Pryor Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, though NPR reported that he has a contentious past, taking firm stances against abortion and reportedly requesting that the Supreme Court support state law criminalizing homosexual acts. Consider that he once called Roe. v. Wade the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law,” setting him apart as perhaps the most controversial option of the three.
So, these are reportedly the names on the short list. No matter who is chosen, here’s why this announcement really matters: Many conservatives hinged their electoral bets on Trump’s pledge to nominate a social conservative to the high court — justices who will defend the unborn and support religious freedom.
For these people, Trump was seen as the best presidential option to right what they saw as a wrong-headed course for America.
And let’s not forget that Trump went to great lengths during the campaign to convince leery Republicans and conservatives that he really would have their best Supreme Court interests at heart, releasing a list of 21 potential nominees. And not only did he provide the list, but he also pledged to select all future justices from that roster.
“I will choose only from it in picking future justices of the Supreme Court,” he said last year.
On the other hand, liberals — if Trump makes good on his promise — will surely be disappointed with his pick, setting up yet another showdown over clashing worldviews and differing ideological perspectives.
Reports indicate, in fact, that Democrats have been considering “all-out war” against the nominee, or a future nominee who could shift the court’s ideological perspective, as CNN reported. Whether that happens now, later — or if at all — remains to be seen.
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