Trump’s Supreme Court

 

By Lindsey Mattila (CMC ’17)

Presidential nominations to the Supreme Court are heavily scrutinized given a justice’s direct role in influencing the nation’s legal precedent. Given that there is currently an open seat and three justices are in their late 70s or beyond, the next president could be nominating up to three potential judges. Donald Trump has released names of 21 judges that he would consider nominating, all of whom could significantly alter the ideological dynamic of the Court.

Typically, presidents choose justices who will reaffirm the policies that the president wants to enact. In Trump’s case, however, his nomination suggestions may be an attempt to improve his tenuous relationship with the conservative GOP.[1] The potential nominees have been described by liberals as, “the most extreme conservatives on the federal bench today.”[2] While past rulings may not be indicative of future ones, the American people only have the nominees’ records to predict how they would rule on the Supreme Court. The potential nominees’ strong rulings on issues such as reproductive justice and environmental protection have many concerned that, if appointed to the Supreme Court, they would tilt the Court right. Conservatives are pleased with his choices, but they are concerned that he would not necessarily stick to his word when it came time to formally nominate a justice. Regardless of the opinions of each side, it would take approval from a majority in the Senate to have a justice approved.

William H. Pryor Jr. is a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. His appointment by George W. Bush was initially blocked by Senate Democrats after he described the Roe v. Wade ruling as “a constitutional right to murder an unborn child.”[3] He also urged the Supreme Court to uphold a Texas law that bans intercourse for same-sex couples. Judges Pryor, Sykes, Gruender and Colloton, who are all on Trump’s list, have ruled in favor of Christian objections to the Obamacare mandate to cover birth control for women.

Other nominees include Judge Allison Eid who clerked for Justice Thomas. She is known for her ruling that declared University of Colorado’s policy banning handguns unlawful and for her decision that employers should be allowed to fire employees who smoke marijuana outside of work.[4] Another nominee who has gained a lot of traction is Judge Don Willet who resides in the Supreme Court of Texas. He is known for his judicial reform that led to expediting U.S. citizenship for active-duty immigrants, for providing the White House with legal counsel on religious liberty, and, most recently, for his tweets that are ironically mocking Trump.

Trump’s list guarantees that any new judges would be conservative originalists, which would significantly alter the balance of the Court since the Court is ideologically split at 4-4 following the death of Justice Scalia. Furthermore, if more seats were to become vacant throughout his presidency, Trump would have the opportunity to make the Court even more conservative, which would have lasting effects on American jurisprudence.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Alan Rappeport and Charlie Savage. “Donald Trump Releases List of Possible Supreme Court Picks.” New York Times. May 18, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/19/us/politics/donald-trump-supreme-court-nominees.html

[2] Nina Totenberg. “Trump’s Supreme Court List Might Reassure Conservatives, But Leaves Off Big Names.” NPR. May 18, 2016. http://www.npr.org/2016/05/18/478609623/trumps-supreme-court-list-might-reassure-conservatives-but-leaves-off-big-names

[3] “The Judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.” Alliance for Justice. February 20, 2014.

[4] “Allison Eid, ’91, and Thomas Lee, ‘91: ‘Who’s Who on Trump’s Supreme Court Wish List.’” The University of Chicago School of Law. May 18, 2016.

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