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Who Will Trump Nominate to the Supreme Court?

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President-elect Donald Trump has a pretty sizable to-do list for his first 100 days in office: repeal and (presumably) replace Obamacare. Label China a currency manipulator.  Suspend immigration from countries with a history of Islamic extremism. But the task on Trump’s agenda that has many conservatives chomping at the bit, and liberals bracing for impact, is appointing the ninth member of the Supreme Court.

Replacing Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last February, has been a tumultuous and highly political spectacle, as Senate Republicans refused a hearing for President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. They won that gamble, and now Trump has the opportunity to shape the ideological makeup of the court for generations. Below is a primer on five of the nominees on Trump’s shortlist.

William Pryor

Pryor, 54, currently sits on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals; George W. Bush appointed him to the federal court in 2004. Pryor attended Northeast Louisiana University for his undergraduate studies, followed by the Tulane University School of Law. While Pryor certainly is a conservative–he staunchly opposes abortion, and compared gay sex to “polygamy, incest, paedophilia, prostitution, and adultery”–he also opposes anti-trans discrimination. In a 2011 case, Pryor supported the opinion that anti-trans discrimination is equal to sex discrimination.

Mike Lee

Lee, a Republican Senator from Utah, has never served as a judge. But he has practiced law, and has been a clerk, twice, for now-Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. Lee, 45, did not support Trump in the primary campaign (he is close friends with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who also ran for the Republican nomination), but is still being considered to serve on the nation’s highest court. Lee serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

As senator, Lee voted for a bill that proposed to complete a section of the U.S.-Mexico border fence. He also strongly opposes Obamacare, and is pretty far-right on social issues, including same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

Steve Colloton

Unlike many of the other names on Trump’s shortlist, Colloton, a 54-year-old Iowa City native, is a product of an Ivy League law school; he graduated from Yale Law School in 1988. George W. Bush appointed Colloton to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in 2003. He has written or supported a number of opinions that put him pretty far-right of center, including one case where he supported companies that refuse free contraception for employees for religious reasons.

Diane Sykes

Sykes, a self-described “originalist-textualist,” worked as a justice on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court from 1999 to 2004, when George W. Bush appointed her to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In her more than two-decade career as a judge, Sykes has staked out a number of far-right positions on the ideological spectrum.

She ruled that companies have the right to abstain from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. She also sided with a religious group at Southern Illinois University’s School of Law that did not allow gay people to join its ranks. The dean said the group violated the school’s nondiscrimination policies. The group said the dean was infringing on their First Amendment rights. Sykes agreed with the group.

Joan Larsen

Larsen boasts an experience that nobody else on Trump’s list can: she clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Judge Antonin Scalia, whose seat she is now vying to fill, from 1994 to 1995. Some conservatives consider her a long shot for the position, largely due to her relative lack of experience serving on a bench; Larsen has spent most of her career as a law professor at the University of Michigan. In September 2015, Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI) named Larsen, 48, to the Michigan Supreme Court to fill a seat left vacant by a departing judge. She won re-election by a landslide last November.

Alec Siegel
Alec Siegel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. When he’s not working at Law Street he’s either cooking a mediocre tofu dish or enjoying a run in the woods. His passions include: gooey chocolate chips, black coffee, mountains, the Animal Kingdom in general, and John Lennon. Baklava is his achilles heel. Contact Alec at ASiegel@LawStreetMedia.com.

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