Donald Trump Supreme Court Picks: Who’s On the Short List?

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Donald Trump is expected to announce his first U.S. Supreme Court nominee next week.

Who’s on the short list?

Various news reports put the number, via sources, at between two and four names – all George W. Bush nominees to the federal bench and all considered conservative. The terms “originalist” and “textualist” come up a lot when people describe the purported finalists. The seat was vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia, a staunch conservative. During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged to appoint a conservative justice, and he even released a list with 21 names to back up his point.

According to CNN, Trump said at a luncheon to a group of Republicans last Thursday: “I think in my mind I know who it is. I think you’re going to be very, very excited.”

President Obama had nominated Merrick Garland to the position, but Republicans bottled up the nomination. According to the New York Times, some liberal organizations are determined to oppose any Trump nominee because the court is sometimes deadlocked 4-4, and a conservative would tilt the balance back in that direction.

Most news accounts now say that Trump’s list has narrowed considerably – all federal judges who were on his original list.

Here are the names most people are talking about:

Neil Gorsuch

According to CBS News, citing sources, Gorsuch is one of Trump’s final two choices.

Gorsuch, 49, is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals, who is based in Denver. CBS News is reporting that he’s the front runner.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Gorsuch is “a highly regarded conservative jurist best known for upholding religious liberty rights in the legal battles over Obamacare.”

Gorsuch clerked for Justices Anthony Kennedy and Bryon White and worked in the U.S. Justice Department during the tenure of George W. Bush, the Los Angeles Times reported.

ABC News reported that several things make Gorsuch an appealing pick; he would be the youngest nominee in more than two decades, and he is not expected to have a major problem winning approval from Democrats because he was “confirmed by voice vote” after George W. Bush nominated him in 2006 to the federal bench.

According to ABC, Gorsuch “attended Harvard Law, and has a Ph.D. from Oxford, where he was a Marshall Scholar.” His mother, Anne, was once the head of the EPA.

According to a 2004 obituary of Anne Gorsuch Burford in The Washington Post, she was Environmental Protection Agency director under Ronald Reagan and “resigned under fire in 1983 during a scandal over mismanagement of a $1.6 billion program to clean up hazardous waste dumps.” The Post article noted that she “was forced to resign after she was cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over Superfund records, arguing that they were protected by executive privilege.”

Scotus Blog reports that Gorsuch is “celebrated as a keen legal thinker and a particularly incisive legal writer” whose style “evokes” Scalia.

Thomas Hardiman

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Hardiman, according to CBS, is the second of Trump’s two final possibilities, along with Gorsuch.

Hardiman is a U.S. District Court Judge who is based in Pennsylvania and serves on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a position he was nominated to by George W. Bush.

The AP reported that Hardiman is a “colleague” of Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Hardiman is a graduate of Notre Dame and Georgetown University Law School.

A professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh told the Post-Gazette, “He’s conservative, but not wildly so. That makes him confirmable.” The newspaper quoted another law professor as saying that Hardiman has not handled many high profile cases and the ACLU as saying he shows deference to government in decisions.

According to Scotus Blog, Hardiman, born in Massachusetts, “became the first person in his family to go to college” and drove a taxi to pay for law school. The blog reported that he has taken an “originalist” approach to gun cases and described Hardiman as “a solid, although hardly knee-jerk, conservative who was active in Republican politics before joining the federal bench.”

William Pryor

William Pryor judge, William Pryor district court, William Pryor supreme court

William Pryor. (Getty)

Some other news sites include William Pryor as the third possibility on Trump’s shortlist. The Associated Press reported that Trump had narrowed the list to Pryor, Hardiman and Gorsuch.

Pryor is based in Alabama and serves on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He was also nominated to his position by George W. Bush.

Pryor had a harder time winning nomination. “Senate Democrats refused to allow a vote on his nomination, leading Bush initially to give Pryor a temporary recess appointment,” the AP reported. He was eventually confirmed on a 53-45 vote. That could signal that his nomination by Trump could provoke a clash.

Scotus Blog reports that Pryor, 54, “earned his B.A. from Northeast Louisiana University in 1984 and his J.D. from Tulane University Law School 1987.”

He was Alabama attorney general, when he became known for removing a chief justice who refused “to follow a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state Supreme Court building,” the blog reports.

He’s had other controversial moments; according to Scotus Blog, Pryor once wrote a legal brief defending a sodomy ban and called Roe v. Wade the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.” U.S. News & World Report says Pryor may have fallen out of favor with Trump for joining “his federal appellate court colleagues in a 2011 ruling that protects transgender rights in the workplace.”

Diane Sykes

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Diane Sykes, 59, makes fewer lists, but she’s still on some of them. The Court of Appeals judge based out of Chicago is a former Wisconsin jurist, which could make her a dark horse considering the fact that Reince Priebus has Trump’s ear.

Now chief of staff to the president, Priebus is the former executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party and is well acquainted with Sykes as a result.

CNN listed Sykes and Pryor, along with Hardiman and Gorsuch, on Trump’s potential shortlist. Her age is seen as a detriment to some as she is older than the other people making short lists.

Sykes recently authored an opinion that struck down laws seen as restricting gun rights.

In one of the presidential debates, Trump brought up the names of Sykes and Pryor as possible Supreme Court picks.

Sykes was born in Milwaukee, graduated from Marquette University, and was a journalist and then a lawyer in private practice before becoming a Milwaukee County Circuit Judge and a state of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice, according to Chicago Magazine. The magazine noted that, when George W. Bush nominated Sykes to the federal courts in 2003, she was confirmed by 70-27 with the support of Wisconsin’s two Democratic U.S. Senators.

Sykes has described herself as an “originalist-textualist,” reported Newsweek.

She is the ex wife of Charlie Sykes, a former conservative talk show host in Milwaukee and MSNBC contributor who is a well-known member of the Never Trump movement.