Donald Trump Supreme Court candidates
With the advice and consent of the United States Senate, the President of the United States appoints the members of the Supreme Court of the United States, which is the highest court of the federal judiciary of the United States. Following his victory in the 2016 presidential election, Republican Donald Trump took office as president on January 20, 2017, and faced an immediate vacancy on the Supreme Court due to the February 2016 death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. During the 2016 campaign, Trump had released two lists of potential nominees to the Supreme Court. After taking office, he nominated Neil Gorsuch to succeed Scalia, and Gorsuch was confirmed in April 2017. In November 2017, five more names were added to the previous lists of potential nominees. In June 2018, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, creating a second vacancy on the Supreme Court. In early July 2018, Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh as his replacement.
President Trump began his term in January 2017 with a vacancy to be filled as a result of the February 2016 death of Justice Antonin Scalia. As three of the Court's justices at the time—Ruth Bader Ginsburg (born 1933), Anthony Kennedy (born 1936) and Stephen Breyer (born 1938)—were aged 78 or older, speculation arose that additional vacancies could occur during Trump's four-year presidential term. Because Ginsburg and Breyer were part of the liberal wing of the Court and Kennedy was a swing vote who often aligned with them on social issues, many top political analysts saw Trump's term as a chance for Republicans to reshape the court significantly towards a more conservative vision of the law. On June 27, 2018, this became a real possibility when Justice Kennedy officially announced his retirement.
The Supreme Court is currently composed of the following nine Justices:
|Name||Age||Serving since||Appointed by||Law School (JD or LLB)|
|Roberts, JohnJohn Roberts
|64||2005||George W. Bush||Harvard University|
|Kennedy, AnthonyAnthony Kennedy||82||1988||Ronald Reagan|
|Thomas, ClarenceClarence Thomas||71||1991||George H. W. Bush||Yale University|
|Ginsburg, Ruth BaderRuth Bader Ginsburg||86||1993||Bill Clinton||Columbia University[note 1]|
|Breyer, StephenStephen Breyer||80||1994||Harvard University|
|Alito, SamuelSamuel Alito||69||2006||George W. Bush||Yale University|
|Sotomayor, SoniaSonia Sotomayor||65||2009||Barack Obama|
|Kagan, ElenaElena Kagan||59||2010||Harvard University|
|Gorsuch, NeilNeil Gorsuch||51||2017||Donald Trump|
Nomination of Neil Gorsuch
On February 13, 2016, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead while vacationing at Cibolo Creek Ranch near Marfa, Texas. Scalia's death marked just the second time in sixty years that a sitting Supreme Court Justice died. It led to a rare but not unprecedented Supreme Court nomination during the last year of a presidency.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, stated the new President should replace Scalia, while President Obama stated that he planned to nominate someone to replace Scalia on the Supreme Court. On February 23, the eleven Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee signed a letter to McConnell stating their intention to withhold consent on any nominee made by President Obama, and that no hearings would occur until after January 20, 2017, when the new president took office. On March 16, 2016, Obama nominated then-Chief Judge Merrick Garland (of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit), to replace Scalia. After Garland's nomination, McConnell reiterated his position that the Senate would not consider any Supreme Court nomination until a new president took office. Garland's nomination expired on January 3, 2017, with the 114th Senate having taken no action on the nomination.
During his 2016 presidential campaign, while Garland remained before the Senate, Trump released two lists of potential nominees. On May 18, 2016, he released a short list of eleven judges for nomination to the Scalia vacancy. On September 23, 2016, he released a second list of ten possible nominees, this time including three minorities. Both lists were assembled by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. Days after Trump's inauguration, Politico named three individuals as the front-runners for Scalia's position: Neil Gorsuch, Thomas Hardiman and Bill Pryor, with Trump reportedly later narrowing his list down to Gorsuch and Hardiman. At the time of the nomination, Gorsuch, Hardiman, and Pryor were all federal appellate judges who had been appointed by President George W. Bush. President Trump and White House Counsel Don McGahn interviewed those three individuals as well as Judge Amul Thapar of the U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Kentucky in the weeks before the nomination. Trump announced Gorsuch as his nominee on January 31. Gorsuch was confirmed by the United States Senate in a 54–45 vote on April 7, 2017, with votes of 51 Republicans and 3 Democrats. Gorsuch was sworn in as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on April 10 by Kennedy.
Nomination of Brett Kavanaugh
On June 27, 2018, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, effective July 31, giving Trump an opportunity to send a second Supreme Court nominee to the Senate for confirmation. Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh on July 9.
Below is a list of individuals which President Trump has identified as his potential nominees for Supreme Court appointments. Most of them were revealed in two lists released by the Trump campaign in 2016. Others were added to a revised list released by the White House on November 17, 2017.
Following the nomination of Amul Thapar to the Sixth Circuit, it was noted that Trump might try to season some of the candidates on his original lists with federal appellate court experience prior to another possible Supreme Court vacancy. Indeed, Trump later elevated a number of other judges from this list to fill vacant positions on the federal Courts of Appeals: Joan Larsen (Sixth Circuit), David Stras (Eighth Circuit), Allison Eid (Tenth Circuit), and Don Willett (Fifth Circuit). Conversely, two Trump appointees to the Courts of Appeals, Amy Coney Barrett (Seventh Circuit) and Kevin Newsom (Eleventh Circuit), were later added to the list of potential Supreme Court candidates.
Despite speculation that Trump might consider other candidates for a possible second Supreme Court nomination, he said in May 2017 that he would make his next appointment from the same list he used to choose Gorsuch (the combined 21 names given on either of the two lists he released during the campaign), describing the list as "a big thing" for him and his supporters. Trump added five further candidates to the list on November 17, 2017.
Note: Names marked with a single asterisk (*) were included on the original short list of eleven potential candidates for the Scalia vacancy released by the Trump campaign on May 18, 2016. Names marked with a double asterisk (**) were included on the additional short list of ten more potential candidates released on September 23, 2016. Names marked with a triple asterisk (***) were added to the revised short list of November 17, 2017.
United States Courts of Appeals
- Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
- Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit
- Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit
- Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit
- Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit
- Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit
- Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit
- Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit
- Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
United States District Courts
- Federico A. Moreno** (born 1952) – District Judge, United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida
State Supreme Courts
- Keith Blackwell** (born 1975) – Associate Justice, Supreme Court of Georgia
- Charles Canady** (born 1954) – Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Florida
- Britt Grant*** (born 1978) – Associate Justice, Supreme Court of Georgia (nominated to the Eleventh Circuit)
- Thomas Rex Lee* (born 1964) – Associate Justice, Utah Supreme Court (possible candidate for a Circuit Court vacancy)
- Edward Mansfield** (born 1957) – Associate Justice, Iowa Supreme Court
- Patrick Wyrick*** (born 1981) – Associate Justice, Supreme Court of Oklahoma (nominated to the Western District of Oklahoma)
- Robert Young Jr.** (born 1951) – Former Chief Justice, Michigan Supreme Court
United States Senators
- Federal judicial appointment history
- List of federal judges appointed by Donald Trump
- United States federal judge
- Ginsburg began her legal studies at Harvard, but transferred to and graduated from Columbia.
- Willett was originally placed on Trump's (first) short list for the Supreme Court as an Associate Justice of the Texas Supreme Court. After the nomination of Gorsuch to the Scalia vacancy, however, Trump nominated Willett to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Willett was confirmed on December 13, 2017, and this appointment is considered to enhance his potential for nomination to a future Supreme Court vacancy.
- Larsen was originally placed on Trump's (first) short list for the Supreme Court as an Associate Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. After the nomination of Gorsuch to the Scalia vacancy, however, Trump nominated Larsen to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Larsen was confirmed on November 1, 2017, and this appointment is considered to enhance her potential for nomination to a future Supreme Court vacancy.
- Thapar was originally placed on Trump's (second) short list for the Supreme Court as a judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. After the nomination of Gorsuch to the Scalia vacancy, however, Trump nominated Thapar to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Thapar was confirmed on May 25, 2017, and this promotion is considered to enhance his potential for nomination to a future Supreme Court vacancy.
- Barrett was successfully nominated by Trump to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and confirmed on October 31, 2017. She first appeared on Trump's revised short list for the Supreme Court in November 2017 after the Scalia vacancy had already been filled.
- Stras was originally placed on Trump's (first) short list for the Supreme Court as an Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. After the nomination of Gorsuch to the Scalia vacancy, however, Trump nominated Stras to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Stras was confirmed on January 30, 2018, and this appointment is considered to enhance his potential for nomination to a future Supreme Court vacancy.
- Eid was originally placed on Trump's (first) short list for the Supreme Court as an Associate Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court. After the nomination of Gorsuch to the Scalia vacancy, however, Trump nominated Eid to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Eid was confirmed on November 2, 2017, and this appointment is considered to enhance her potential for nomination to a future Supreme Court vacancy.
- Newsom was successfully nominated by Trump to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and confirmed on August 1, 2017. He first appeared on Trump's revised short list for the Supreme Court in November 2017 after the Scalia vacancy had already been filled.
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- Kabot, Joel (January 13, 2017). "Trump could alter Supreme Court for decades to come". TheHill. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
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- Liptak, Alan (February 13, 2016), "Justice Antonin Scalia, Who Led a Conservative Renaissance on the Supreme Court, Is Dead at 79", The New York Times, retrieved February 17, 2016
- Gresko, Jessica (February 14, 2016). "Scalia's death in office a rarity for modern Supreme Court". Associated Press. Archived from the original on February 16, 2016. Retrieved February 15, 2016.
- "President Obama Delivers a Statement on the Passing of Supreme Court Justice Scalia", Rancho Mirage, CA (February 13, 2016).
- Letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (February 23, 2016).
- "Grassley on Supreme Court Nomination: ‘We have a constitutional responsibility". Des Moines, Iowa: WHO tv interview. March 1, 2016. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
- Shear, Michael D. (March 16, 2016). "Obama Chooses Merrick Garland for Supreme Court". New York Times. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
- Howe, Amy (January 3, 2017). "Garland nomination officially expires". Scotusblog. Retrieved January 30, 2017.
- Alan Rappeport, Charlie Savage (May 18, 2016). "Donald Trump Releases List of Possible Supreme Court Picks". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 22, 2016.
- Reena Flores, Major Garrett (September 23, 2016). "Donald Trump expands list of possible Supreme Court picks". CBS News. Retrieved November 13, 2016.
- Goldmacher, Shane; Johnson, Eliana; Gerstein, Josh (January 31, 2017). "How Trump got to yes on Gorsuch". Politico. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
- Johnson, Eliana; Goldmacher, Shane (January 24, 2017). "Trump's down to three in Supreme Court search". Politico. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
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- Liptak, Adam; Flegenheimer, Matt (April 7, 2017). "Neil Gorsuch Confirmed by Senate as Supreme Court Justice". The New York Times. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
- "Justice Kennedy, the pivotal swing vote on the Supreme Court, announces retirement". Retrieved June 27, 2018 – via www.washingtonpost.com.
- "Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy retires -- live updates". Retrieved 2018-06-27.
- "President Donald J. Trump’s Supreme Court List". whitehouse.gov. November 17, 2017. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
- Goldmacher, Shane (April 6, 2017). "Trump's hidden back channel to Justice Kennedy: Their kids". Politico. Retrieved April 8, 2017.
- Williams, Joseph P. (May 1, 2017). "Trump: Next Supreme Court Nominee Will Come From Conservative List". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
- de Vogue, Ariane; Biskupic, Joan (May 2, 2017). "Conservatives prepare for Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement". CNN. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
- Wilson, Chris (June 27, 2018). "Appellate judge on D.C. Circuit seen as early favorite on Trump's Supreme Court shortlist". Yahoo! News. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
- Kendall, Brent; Bravin, Jess (January 27, 2017). "Who's Who: Donald Trump's Potential Supreme Court Picks". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 30, 2017.
- "Resources: Potential U.S. Supreme Court Nominees of President-Elect Donald Trump", The Institute for Intermediate Study (tifis.org)
- "Donald J. Trump Releases List of Potential United States Supreme Court Justices", donaldjtrump.com (May 18, 2016).
- "Donald J. Trump Finalizes List of Potential Supreme Court Justice Picks" donaldjtrump.com (September 23, 2016).