WASHINGTON–The U.S. Supreme Court has been one justice short for almost a year now after the death of Antonin Scalia last February. That’s why President Donald Trump this Tuesday – just a week-and-a-half into his presidency – will announce who he’s nominating to fill Scalia’s vacant seat.
Candidate Trump promised to pick from a list of 21 names, all constitutionalists, all likely to lean pro-life.
However, ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl tweeted that a White House senior administration official told him the Supreme Court’s short list is down to Neil Gorsuch & Thomas Hardiman.
No matter who it is they will face rock-hard opposition from Democrats in the Senate, where confirmation hearings will be held.
“They’re Going to Shake Their Fist”
Curt Levey at Freedomworks and the Committee for Justice said of these Democrats, “I think it’s fair to say no matter who Trump nominates, they’re going to shake their fist. So I think it comes down to how much ammunition will they have?”
Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network added, “Everyone on this list is going to get major attacks from the Left. And that’s because they do have a very strong record of upholding constitutional fidelity.”
Supposedly at the top of the list is 10th Circuit appeals judge Neil Gorsuch.
“He has one of the most stellar academic resumes of the bunch, and we’re talking about some pretty tough competition,” Severino stated. “He went to Harvard Law School, he was a Marshall Scholar, he had not one but two Supreme Court clerkships.”
Caring For The Constitution
For Trump, with all his nominees, the question wasn’t what party do they belong to – whether they’re Republican or Democrat – but whether they’re a constitutionalist. It’s not about what they think of the law, but what the Constitution actually says the law is.
And Levey said that’s definitely what Gorsuch is.
“He really does impress people as a rule of law guy. He’ll follow it where it goes,” Levey explained.
Severino said of Gorsuch’s rulings, “Particularly some good decisions on religious liberty issues. He was part of the court that heard the Hobby Lobby case as well as the Little Sisters of the Poor case. And voted the right way on both of those as far as I’m concerned, defending religious liberty and standing up for the rights in those two cases.”
Liking Gorsuch…Until He Gets Nominated
Levey said of Gorsuch, “Highly regarded by nearly everyone even on the Left. Of course, they’ll forget that if he gets nominated.”
Severino said of Gorsuch and the Left, “The same religious freedom cases that we would view as ‘wow, this is great,’ this shows that he understands the First Amendment, he understands the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and our fundamental rights, is something that the Left is going to see as a threat.”
Will conservatives or pro-lifers find anything about Gorsuch to oppose.? Nit-picky stuff, Severino suggested.
“People were complaining that he signed onto an opinion that used the word ‘fetus’ instead of calling it an ‘unborn child.’ The level of pickiness that we’re looking at here, Justice Scalia would not have passed this threshold,” Severino insisted.
Second Possible: Thomas Hardiman
The other name rumored to be on the top of the list is Third Circuit judge Thomas Hardiman, who just happens to serve alongside Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry.
The three judges on his list of 21 possible candidates Trump has actually met with recently: Gorsuch, Hardiman, and Pryor.
Severino admires the way Hardiman fills many hours outside work volunteering and doing charitable work.
“He came up from working class roots,” Severino said, adding, “He drove a taxi for his family business, growing up to work his way through school. He just sounds like he’s a great guy.”
Hardiman is a staunch defender of the Second Amendment and gun rights. In a religious liberty case, he sided with a mother and son when the boy wasn’t allowed to read Bible verses during a kindergarten show-and-tell at his public school.
Levey said of Trump picking Hardiman, or for that matter anyone on Trump’s list of 21, “I really would be and I think the vast majority of conservative attorneys would be very happy.”
Pryor Possibly In Trouble
11th Circuit judge William Pryor seemed to have the inside track for a few weeks.
Severino suggested that was because “He has a very distinguished record of constitutional fidelity. So many great decisions. There are some really good ones on religious freedom.”
But his past controversial comments on topics like abortion may cause an apocalyptic bitter battle in the Senate. And Trump may want to avoid that much trouble this soon into his new presidency.
“Your best bet is to go with the best person that you think has a reasonable chance to get confirmed,” Levey explained.
But Severino appreciates Pryor’s willingness to say what he believes in past hearings.
“He was very outspoken during his confirmation hearings and got a lot of flack from the Democrats at the time,” Severino said. “Because they asked him straight up ‘what do you think of Roe vs. Wade (that legalized abortion)?’ And he said, ‘it’s an abomination, a constitutional abomination.’ So kudos to him for being able to say it like it is.”