President-elect Trump has started meeting with potential Supreme Court nominees. Trump says he has “met with numerous candidates” and will announce his selection “probably” within two weeks after the inauguration.
Trump is said to have met on Saturday with William Pryor, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Readers may recall that Pryor was one of two judges Trump mentioned during a primary debate as a “fantastic” potential Justice. The other was Diane Sykes of the Seventh Circuit.
Sykes is on the rumored short list for Supreme Court nominees, along with Pryor. Others on that “list” are Raymond Kethledge of the Sixth Circuit, Steve Colloton of the Eighth Circuit, Neal Gorsuch of the Tenth Circuit, Thomas Hardiman of the Third Circuit, and Joan Larsen of the Michigan Supreme Court.
Of this group, I’m most familiar with Judge Pryor, and have long been a fan. At Power Line, we strongly supported him during the bitter confirmation battle over his court of appeals nomination.
Sen. Susan Collins voted against Pryor’s confirmation all those years ago. If she remains opposed, there won’t be much margin for error even if, as expected, the Senate eventually votes to abolish the filibuster of Supreme Court nominees.
It’s possible that social conservatives will not be pleased with Trump’s nominee. Andy Schlafly, son of the late Phyllis, produced a letter criticizing “short list” members Sykes, Kethledge, Colloton, Gorsuch, and Larsen. Ed Whelan defended the judges and attacked the letter here and elsewhere.
Pryor was not among those criticized by Schlafly. However, he has critics among social conservatives. The criticism stems from joining one or more opinions written by the Eleventh Circuit’s leading liberal (Judge Burkett) involving gay and/or transgender rights and religious freedom. The cases are discussed in this article on ScotusBlog under the heading LBGTQ rights.
I haven’t yet read these decisions — just the summary on ScotusBlog– so I won’t discuss them now. Instead, I will note that (1) the positions Pryor took probably make him more, not less attractive, to the new president and (2) if conservatives want a judge with a long track record, as I think we do, we should not expect a nominee never to have joined, or written, an opinion with which we disagree.
My sense is that Judge Pryor has an excellent overall record when it comes to issues involving religious freedom.