Donald Trump has added ten more names to the group people he says exemplify what he’s looking for in a Supreme Court Justice. Previously, he put out a list of eleven such possibilities. I discussed that group here.
The new list consists of:
Mike Lee — U.S. Senator, Utah
Neil Gorsuch — Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
Margaret Ryan — Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
Edward Mansfield — Justice, Iowa Supreme Court
Keith Blackwell — Justice, Georgia Supreme Court
Charles Canady — Justice, Florida Supreme Court (and a former Congressman)
Timothy Tymkovich — Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
Amul Thapar — Judge, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky
Frederico Moreno — Judge, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida
Robert Young — Chief Justice, Michigan Supreme Court
Clearly, Trump is doubling down on geographic diversity and still eschewing judges from Washington, D.C. and the Northeast. And once again, he’s looking to state courts for potential nominees.
The tilt away from Eastern jurists is beginning to look like an unfortunate fetish. It seems to me, for example, that Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S Court of Appeals for the District Columbia, should make any list of the top 21 conservative candidates for the Supreme Court.
It also looks like Trump is stretching to find ethnic diversity. Amal Thapar (South Asian) and Frederico Moreno (Hispanic) may be fine district court judges, but it’s unusual (though not irrational) to elevate a trial judge to the Supreme Court. They may have made the list because of their ethnicity.
Similarly, in looking to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to find the only woman on the new list, Trump may have had gender in mind.
These are quibbles, however. Although I’m not familiar with everyone on the list, in general its members appear to be, in the words of the Heritage Foundation’s John Malcolm, “eminently qualified to sit on the high court” and solidly conservative. I believe, however, that Trump’s first list is stronger than his second.
Sen. Lee joins his brother Justice Thomas Lee on Trump’s combined list. The Senator, though, has yet to endorse Trump and said through a spokesperson that his inclusion on Trump’s list won’t change this. The spokesperson added this obligatory statement: “Sen. Lee already has the job he wants which is why he is campaigning to represent the great people of Utah again this year.”
Given Mike Lee’s collaboration with Dick Durbin on leniency legislation for federal drug felons, I won’t be heartbroken if he never joins the Supreme Court.
The fact that Trump has put out a second list of conservative potential Justices still doesn’t guarantee that he will actually nominate a conservative. However, I think it more likely than not that Trump’s first selection will come from one of the two lists. After that, all bets are probably off, and he might well pick a moderate.
But one conservative and one moderate (the overall pattern of Republican presidents) is much better than two liberals, or more likely two left-liberals, which is what we’ll get from Hillary Clinton.