Political News

The Front-Runners and Full List of Potential Supreme Court Nominees

Posted June 27, 2018 7:03 p.m. EDT
Updated June 27, 2018 7:08 p.m. EDT

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced Wednesday that he would retire from the Supreme Court. His vacancy sets up a showdown for a replacement that could change the direction of the highest court in the United States.

President Donald Trump said he intends to choose his next Supreme Court nominee from a list he began compiling during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“I think you see the kind of quality that we’re looking at when you look at that list,” Trump said Wednesday in the Oval Office.

He added, “So it will be somebody from that list.”

Here is a look at some early front-runners for the job, and the full list of 25 potential nominees, as released by the White House in November.

— The Front-Runners

Thomas Hardiman, 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Trump considered Hardiman last year for the seat that was ultimately filled by Justice Neil Gorsuch. Hardiman was first appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush in 2003 and was elevated to the appeals court four years later. He has built a reputation as a reliable conservative on the court, where he has served alongside Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, who is said to have recommended Hardiman for the Supreme Court vacancy last year. One opinion that could resonate with Trump: Hardiman signed on to a decision declaring that asylum-seekers could not ask a U.S. District Court to prevent or postpone their deportation while challenging their removal orders.

William Pryor Jr., 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Pryor was viewed as a finalist for last year’s vacant seat on the court. He has called Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion, as “the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history.” He is close with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and, like Sessions, is an outspoken conservative who has strongly opposed gay rights.

Amul Thapar, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Thapar was confirmed to the appeals court last year and previously served as a judge on the U.S. District Court in eastern Kentucky. The son of Indian-American immigrants, the White House said he was the first federal court judge of South Asian descent. Thapar was among those considered by Trump for last year’s Supreme Court vacancy. “I’m my own judge and I hope my track record speaks to that,” he told senators last year.

Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Even before Gorsuch was confirmed, White House officials were already signaling their interest in Kavanaugh for a future opening on the Supreme Court, should it occur. Trump did not include Kavanaugh on his original list of potential nominees, but added him to a revised list released last fall. A former prosecutor under the independent counsel Kenneth Starr, Kavanaugh was appointed to the court by President George W. Bush in 2006 and had a difficult road to confirmation. As a White House adviser, he helped Bush fill the nation’s courts with conservatives. “Mr. Kavanaugh would probably win first prize as the hard right’s political lawyer,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said at the time.

Joan Larsen, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

A former Michigan state Supreme Court justice, Larsen was confirmed last year to the federal bench. During her confirmation process, she was criticized by civil rights groups for her past rulings and writings on gay rights. Larsen clerked for former Justice Antonin Scalia and has praised his by-the-letter reading of the Constitution and the law. A former law professor at the University of Michigan, Larsen said at her confirmation hearing last year that she would be an independent-minded jurist. “If someone believes I’ve passed some litmus test, I honestly don’t know how they came to that conclusion,” she said.

Amy Coney Barrett, 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Barrett became something of a hero to religious conservatives last year when Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., questioned what influence the jurist’s Roman Catholic faith would have on her rulings from the bench. She was questioned in particular about a 1998 article in which she argued that Catholic judges should sometimes recuse themselves from sentencing in death penalty cases. At her confirmation hearing, she backed away from that position. A former law clerk to Scalia, she served for 15 years as a law professor at the University of Notre Dame.

Trump’s Supreme Court List

Issued Nov. 17, 2017

— Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana, 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Keith Blackwell of Georgia, Supreme Court of Georgia

Charles Canady of Florida, Supreme Court of Florida

Steven Colloton of Iowa, 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Allison Eid of Colorado, 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Britt Grant of Georgia, Supreme Court of Georgia

Raymond Gruender of Missouri, 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Brett Kavanaugh of Maryland, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Raymond Kethledge of Michigan, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Joan Larsen of Michigan, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Mike Lee of Utah, U.S. senator

Thomas Lee of Utah, Supreme Court of Utah

Edward Mansfield of Iowa, Supreme Court of Iowa

Federico Moreno of Florida, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida

Kevin Newsom of Alabama, 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

William Pryor of Alabama, 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Margaret Ryan of Virginia, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces

David Stras of Minnesota, 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Diane Sykes of Wisconsin, 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Amul Thapar of Kentucky, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Timothy Tymkovich of Colorado, 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Robert Young of Michigan, Supreme Court of Michigan (retired)

Don Willett of Texas, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Patrick Wyrick of Oklahoma, Supreme Court of Oklahoma