President Donald Trump’s pick to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court will be announced Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET. Four names have risen as front-runners: Brett Kavanaugh, Thomas Hardiman, Amy Coney Barrett, and Raymond Kethledge.
Trump’s choice could shape legal doctrine for decades and make decisions on some of the most hot-button issues of our time, including abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and affirmative action.
All four front-runners are appeals court judges with conservative track records and are relatively young. While reports circulated that Trump liked the idea of appointing a conservative woman to the country’s highest court, a source told NBC News that Trump is now focused on Kavanaugh, an appeals judge for the District of Columbia Circuit, and Hardiman, who serves on the Third Circuit.
USA Today reports that Leonard Leo—who has been advising the president on his SCOTUS pick—said that Kavanaugh and Barrett had “a lot of name recognition among supporters of the president.” He also said that Kethledge and Hardiman were “a little bit less known” to conservatives and their records “are a little bit lighter.”
Kavanaugh, 51, is a Yale Law School graduate who worked in both Bush administrations and for Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who led the investigation that preceded Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998, CNN reports. He also clerked for the outgoing Justice Kennedy, as did Justice Neil Gorsuch, who replaced Justice Antonin Scalia after his death. During the confirmation hearing for his appeals court position, he called the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision a “binding precedent” that he intended to follow “fully” during his time on the D.C. Circuit.
Hardiman, 52, was reportedly a runner-up for the SCOTUS seat that ultimately went to Gorsuch. He served alongside the president’s older sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, a federal appeals judge for the Third Circuit. Hardiman is a Georgetown Law graduate and reportedly “drove a cab as he worked his way through” law school. He has also consistently ruled conservative on laws concerning gun rights and the death penalty, but has not weighed in on abortion.
Amy Coney Barrett
Barrett, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, is reportedly one of the two women that Trump was considering. The youngest of the contenders, she is 46 and an alum and professor of Notre Dame Law. She also clerked under the late Justice Scalia, which has reportedly made her a favorite among social conservatives. News of her “orthodox Catholic” beliefs and her allegiance to the group People of Praise have raised some concerns.
The 51-year-old Kethledge has served on the Sixth Circuit, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan. According to SCOTUSBlog, he has yet to weigh in on issues like abortion and affirmative action but has been “a solidly conservative vote.”
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