Trump to Announce Supreme Court Nominee Pick Tonight — Down to Three, With One Favored

Judge Neil Gorsuch of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit is rumored to be selected.

By Rachel Alexander Published on January 31, 2017

Update 4:25 p.m. EST – The Daily Caller News Foundation is reporting that “personnel are already in place in Washington to guide Gorsuch through the confirmation process.” A source told the news site that Michael Davis, the managing partner of MRDLaw in Denver, Colo., who clerked for Gorsuch, is leading the team.

Update 2:45 p.m. EST – CNN is reporting that Judges Gorsuch and Hardiman have been flown to Washington, D.C. in advance of the announcement, and that Gorsuch was told that he is the likely choice.

President Donald Trump will announce his choice to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court at 8 p.m. EST. He originally issued a list of 21 potential nominees in September, which he whittled down to about three finalists.

All three have philosophies very similar to Scalia’s. Like him, they adhere to originalism, interpreting the words of the Constitution as they were understood at the time they were written. Senate Democrats are certain to oppose Trump’s choice. All three have issued opinions as circuit court judges that offend liberals.

Here are the three: Neil Gorsuch, rumored to be the choice, Thomas Hardiman and William Pryor, Jr.

Judge Neil Gorsuch

Judge Neil Gorsuch, 49, currently serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, and is considered the top contender. The American Bar Association rated him “unanimously qualified” when he was appointed to the bench in 2006, and he was confirmed in the Senate without opposition.

He graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School, then clerked for Supreme Court Justice Byron White and Justice Anthony Kennedy. While serving as a Deputy Associate Attorney General with the Department of Justice, he received the prestigious Edward J. Randolph Award for outstanding service.

He defended religious liberty in two crucial recent cases, Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius and Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell, against the Obama administration’s attempt to force individuals to violate their deeply held religious beliefs and conscience. In United States v. Games-Perez, he wrote an opinion defending the Second Amendment right to own guns.

However, Andrew Schlafly, son of the late conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly, recently argued that “Neil Gorsuch is NOT pro-life.” Schlafly argued that he has refused to affirm the right to life of the “unviable fetus” and that his belief in the obligation to follow precedent means he will accept Roe v. Wade. Gorsuch “has never said or written anything pro-life,” Schlafly wrote.

However, Gorsuch authored The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, where he argued that euthanasia should be illegal. Some believe this is evidence he is pro-life. Born in Colorado, he is an avid outdoorsman who loves to fish, hunt and ski.

Judge Thomas Hardiman

Judge Thomas Hardiman, 51, sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He faced no opposition to his confirmation in the Senate in 2007. He received his law degree from Georgetown University, where he was an editor of Georgetown Law Journal. The first person from his family to attend college, he put himself through law school by driving taxis.

He believes in judicial restraint, opining in a dissent that “Federal judges must apply the Constitution and the precedents of the Supreme Court regardless of what each judge might believe as a matter of policy or principle.” He issued a dissent in Drake v. Filko, where the majority upheld a New Jersey law requiring residents to show “justifiable need” in order to carry handguns in public. In Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Department of Health and Human Services, he voted to rehear a case that had upheld the Obamacare contraceptive mandate.

Prior to becoming a judge, Hardiman worked pro bono on Modrovich vs. Allegheny County  to defend a display of the Ten Commandments on a public building. Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, who serves with Hardiman on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, has endorsed him. He resides in Pennsylvania, where he was active in the state Republican party, assisting with lawsuits.

William Pryor, Jr.

An early favorite of Trump’s, William Pryor, Jr., has reportedly dropped out of the top two, probably due to intense opposition from the left. Former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, who Trump appointed Attorney General, is strongly supporting Pryor’s nomination.

Pryor, 54, was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in 2004 through a recess appointment by President George W. Bush, since the Senate refused to confirm him. He graduated cum laude from Tulane University Law School.

In 1997, he became the youngest Attorney General in the U.S., at age 34. In 2003, he filed an amicus brief on behalf of the State of Alabama in Lawrence v. Texas, urging the Supreme Court to uphold a state law which made homosexual conduct a misdemeanor.

He has referred to Roe v. Wade as “worst abomination of constitutional law in our history.” In Eternal Word Television Network, Inc. v. Sec’y, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Servs., he authored a concurring opinion opposing the Obamacare contraception mandate against Catholic television network EWTN.

He wrote a unanimous opinion in Common Cause/Georgia v. Billups, upholding a state law requiring voter identification. In Pelphrey v. Cobb County, he upheld the practice of a commission to open meetings with a sectarian prayer. He affirmed a local ordinance in Zibtluda LLC v. Gwinnett County, Georgia, which restricted the location of adult entertainment establishments.

However, Pryor opposed former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore’s efforts to keep a monument of the Ten Commandments in the courthouse. He prosecuted Moore for violations of the Canons of Judicial Ethics. He has received opposition from conservative groups for ruling in favor of a transgender who was fired after disclosing an intent to transition.

The Finalists: All Good

Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, said all three finalists were excellent. “Everyone we’ve seen has an excellent record of principled judging based on the original interpretation of the constitution, and any one of them would be a good successor to Scalia,” she said. “Trump issuing the original list was stellar, put together by a team able to identify judges in the mold of Scalia. I can support any of them.”

Yet given Trump’s unpredictability, he might not pick any of the three. He might just go with a woman, Judge Diane Sykes, 59, of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, who has a record equally as qualified and conservative as the three men.


Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC

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