Donald Trump on Wednesday released a list of 11 judges whom he would consider nominating to the U.S. Supreme Court if he is elected president and the late associate justice Antonin Scalia's seat is still empty by then.
Five of the potential nominees – Eid, Lee, Stras, Larsen and Willett -- are on state supreme courts. The rest serve on U.S. circuit courts of appeals -- Colloton and Gruender on the 8th, Hardiman on the 3rd, Kethledge on the 6th, Sykes on the 7th and Pryor on the 11th.
The likely GOP presidential nominee first promised to release the list in March, when his then-rival Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) accused him of not being a true conservative and warned Republicans that Trump would appoint liberal judges to the court. At the time, Trump said he was working with the conservative Heritage Foundation to formulate a list of potential nominees and that, if elected president, he would pick only from that list.
President Obama has nominated U.S. Circuit Judge Merrick B. Garland to succeed Scalia, but Senate Republicans are refusing to consider him.
"I'm going to submit a list of justices, potential justices of the United States Supreme Court that I will appoint, from the list — I won't go beyond that list,” Trump said at a news conference in Washington in late March. “I'm going to let people know, because some people say: Oh, maybe I'll appoint a liberal judge. I'm not appointing a liberal judge."
In releasing the list Wednesday, the candidate made clear that it only pertains to the seat formerly occupied by Scalia. The campaign said in a statement that “this list was compiled, first and foremost, based on constitutional principles, with input from highly respected conservatives and Republican Party leadership.”
“Justice Scalia was a remarkable person and a brilliant Supreme Court Justice,” Trump said in a statement. “His career was defined by his reverence for the Constitution and his legacy of protecting Americans’ most cherished freedoms. He was a Justice who did not believe in legislating from the bench and he is a person whom I held in the highest regard and will always greatly respect his intelligence and conviction to uphold the Constitution of our country. The following list of potential Supreme Court justices is representative of the kind of constitutional principles I value and, as President, I plan to use this list as a guide to nominate our next United States Supreme Court Justices.”
Many of Trump’s candidates were on a wish list compiled by the Heritage Foundation earlier this year. The exceptions are most of the state supreme court justices he said he would consider.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who is touted by many conservatives for the court but who endorsed his friend Cruz for president, was on the Heritage list, but not Trump's. Instead, Lee’s brother Thomas, a justice on the Utah Supreme Court, is mentioned.
Two others from the Heritage list are missing. Brett Kavanaugh, an influential judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit who is often mentioned for elevation under a Republican president, is there. Trump has said previously that he would consider judges for the opening, and Paul D. Clement, former solicitor general in the Bush administration, is not among the possibilities.
Clement is one of the premier Supreme Court practitioners and has emerged as a go-to lawyer for conservative causes at the high court, defending the federal Defense of Marriage Act and challenging the Affordable Care Act. But he has never served on the bench.
One of the judges on the list, Don Willett, who has earned the Texas title of "Tweeter Laureate" has, in the past, made fun of Trump in Twitter posts.
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This post has been updated.