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Everything You Need to Know About Donald Trump's Candidates for the Supreme Court

by Countable | Updated on 7.9.18

When Donald Trump is inaugurated as president on January 20, he’ll have one immediate spot on the Supreme Court to fill. By the end of his time as president, that could grow to two or three or even four SCOTUS vacancies.

Justice Antonin Scalia died last February and President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland has been waiting nine months for a confirmation that now isn’t going to come. Trump will get to name a replacement for Scalia and, potentially, nominees to fill the seats of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal justice who is 83 years old, Anthony Kennedy, a conservative swing vote on the Court who is 80 years old, and Stephen Breyer, another liberal justice who is 78 years old.

Trump has already released a list he says he will pull from when naming nominees to the nation’s highest court for lifetime terms. Each would need to be questioned and approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee before being confirmed by the full Senate, with a majority vote. So be sure to tell your senators what you think.

(Since these are lifetime appointments, we have included the ages of the potential SCOTUS nominees or estimated them based on available data).

The Nominees

Keith Blackwell, ~ 42 years old (Blackwell finished undergrad in 1996). Justice Blackwell currently serves on the Georgia Supreme Court and was appointed by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal in 2012. He graduated from the University of Georgia law school, then worked in private practice before going to work for the state, including on Georgia’s Court of Appeals. As a deputy special attorney general for the state, Blackwell helped Georgia to challenge the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, according to Forbes. Blackwell is also a fan of video games, telling a group of attorneys last year that he enjoys playing NFL games to clear his mind after work.

Charles Canady, 62 years old. Canady is a former member of the House of Representatives and general counsel to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who now serves on the Florida Supreme Court. He also served as the court’s chief justice for a two-year term. During his time in the House, Canady coined the term "partial-birth abortion" in a fight to ban the practice (which wouldn’t pass until 2003, after he left Congress), according to the Florida Bar Journal. He was a strong supporter of the Defense of Marriage Act (which defined marriage as between one man and one woman) and pushed to impeach President Bill Clinton. Just last month, Florida’s Supreme Court ruled that the state’s new death penalty law was unconstitutional because it does not require the jury to be unanimous; Canady was the only justice to dissent in that case.

Steven Colloton, 63 years old. Colloton is a Yale and Princeton grad, who has served on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals since he was appointed by George W. Bush in 2003. He previously worked in the Dept. of Justice and as an assistant to Independent Counsel Ken Starr, during his investigation of the Whitewater scandal (that inquiry turned into the Monica Lewinsky investigation, after Colloton left the office). Colloton, along with a few other judges on this list, ruled in favor of organizations that objected to covering birth control under the Affordable Care Act due to religious reasons. Mitt Romney also considered Colloton as a potential SCOTUS nominee.

Allison Eid, ~ 51 years old (finished undergrad at Stanford in 1987). Eid has served as a justice on the Colorado Supreme Court since 2006 and previously worked in the private sector and as a law professor at the University of Colorado. She would have a familiar face on the Supreme Court if nominated, as she previously clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas. Eid authored an opinion for the Colorado Supreme Court, which ruled that the University of Colorado could not ban concealed weapons that were otherwise legal on campus.

Neil Gorsuch, 49 years old. Gorsuch serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, after working as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Dept. of Justice. Gorsuch previously clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy, one of the judges he could end up replacing on the Supreme Court. Gorsuch is no stranger to Washington; his mother was the first female EPA administrator, in the Reagan administration, according to the Denver Post. He is a strong critic of over-criminalization, blaming lawmakers for making too many things federal crimes and has argued that the legal precedent for courts to defer to federal agencies in areas where policy is ambiguous, is unconstitutional. Gorsuch also wrote a book earlier in his career, making the legal and ethical argument against euthanasia.

Raymond Gruender, 53 years old. Gruender has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit since he was nominated by Bush in 2003. He’s strongly involved in domestic violence issues and advocacy after his father shot him and his sister at a young age and then killed himself, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. As a judge, Gruender’s opinion in a 2007 case provided some of the backing for lawsuits against the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate. And he ruled in favor of a South Dakota law that required abortion providers to inform patients that they were terminating a human life before the procedure.

Thomas Hardiman, 51 years old. Hardiman has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third District since he was nominated by Bush in 2006. Haridman was "the first in his family to attend college, according to the Trump campaign," per TalkingPointsMemo, and earned degrees from both Notre Dame and Georgetown. He has ruled in a number of high-profile criminal justice cases, including finding that strip searches in jails do not violate the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure (which was upheld by the Supreme Court). He also ruled in a 2010 Pennsylvania case, that citizens cannot secretly record police officers under the state’s wiretapping law.

Raymond Kethledge, 49 years old. Kethledge is another Bush appointee who has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District since 2008. He previously served as a counsel in the Senate, working with the Senate Judiciary Committee (which confirms SCOTUS nominees), and as an in-house counsel for Ford Motor Company, according to TPM. This year, he criticized the IRS for declining to release documents related to a tea party group’s suit against the agency for, they allege, unfairly targeting them and other conservative groups.

Joan Larsen, 48 years old. Larsen has served on the Michigan Supreme Court for just one year, after a long career as a professor at the University of Michigan Law school. Larsen previously clerked for Scalia at the Supreme Court and worked in the Dept. of Justice. The Michigan ACLU has sued DOJ for access to a secret memo it claims Larsen wrote during her time there, which in part provided the legal justification for torture, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Mike Lee, 45 years old. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) has served in the Senate since 2011 and is also on the Judiciary Committee. Lee clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and served as a lawyer in private practice, as well as in former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman’s administration and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Utah. Lee, who is close with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and supported him for president, has said he would not accept a Supreme Court nomination in a Trump administration.

Thomas Lee, 52 years old. Sen. Lee’s brother, Thomas, has served on the Utah Supreme Court since 2010 as the associate chief justice. Lee previously clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, taught law at his alma mater Brigham Young University and worked as counsel for both the state of Utah and DOJ. Lee has argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in the past, including in a case brought by advocates for detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Lee represented the Bush administration, arguing against their petition to allow detainees to bring their cases in civilian courts (rather than military tribunals). SCOTUS ruled against him. In 2011, Lee ruled that a fetus qualifies as "minor child" in wrongful death suits.

Edward Mansfield, ~ 60 years old (finished undergrad in 1978). Mansfield has served on the Iowa Supreme Court since 2011, after spending two years on the Iowa Court of Appeals. In one case from 2012 that got national attention, Mansfield and the court ruled against a woman who sued her former employer, a dentist, for gender discrimination. According to the Guardian, "he fired her supposedly for the sake of his marriage," after suggesting that she “wear less revealing clothing to the office because of his attraction to her.” Mansfield said that the firing was not related to gender. In another high-profile case, Mansfield dissented with the court’s ruling against sentencing minors to life without the chance for parole, arguing, essentially, that the court was legislating from the bench.

Federico Moreno, 64 years old. Moreno has served on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida since 1990 and was appointed by George H.W. Bush. Moreno was born in Venezuela and attended the University of Miami Law School. He would be the first Floridian and the first Venezuelan on the Supreme Court, according to the Southern District of Florida Blog. In a notable 2006 ruling, Moreno found that the U.S. improperly returned 15 Cuban immigrants to their home country, who were found standing on an abandoned bridge in the Florida Keys, and ordered the U.S. to try to help them return, according to the New York Times. The government argued that because they were on a bridge in the water, the immigrants were not on U.S. soil and thus could be sent back.

William Pryor, 54 years old. Pryor is another Bush appointee, serving on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit since 2004. Pryor previously served as the Attorney General for Alabama. He gained national attention in 2003, when he called for Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore to step down, after he refused to remove the 10 Commandments from the court’s property (Pryor said he agreed with Moore, but that Moore had to follow a federal court ruling). Democrats opposed his appointment to the 11th Circuit court in large part because of his feelings on Roe v. Wade (which he called "the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law") and his support for anti-sodomy laws, in which he compared homosexuality to "prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography and even incest and pedophilia." But he was confirmed by Bush in a recess appointment, bypassing the Senate. On the 11th Circuit, Pryor wrote a unanimous ruling approving Georgia’s voter ID law and supported a unanimous ruling, in which the court found that firing a transgender person over their gender identity constituted gender discrimination. In one of his first cases on the federal court, Pryor quoted the song "Love Shack” by the B-52s in a ruling allowing an Alabama county to prohibit an adult bookstore from opening there.

Margaret A. Ryan, 52 years old. Ryan was nominated by Bush to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces in 2006. Ryan served in the Marine Corps and served in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm, before working as a JAG officer. She also clerked for Justice Thomas. In one notable 2008 case, Ryan ruled against the U.S. government, which was trying an Army private for disobeying orders by attending a KKK rally. While Ryan said that the court strongly condemned the private’s actions and related hate speech, she and the Court’s majority found that he was protected under the First Amendment.

Amul Thapar, 47 years old. Thapar was nominated by George W. Bush to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, where he currently serves, in 2007. Previously, he worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in D.C. and as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. Thapar would be the first Indian-American on the Supreme Court. He is an active anti-drug advocate and a member of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. In a high-profile 2013 case, Thapar sentenced three activists, including a nun, to three- and five-year prison terms after they broke into a U.S. nuclear weapons facility and defaced "a bunker holding bomb-grade uranium," according to CBS News. (The nun asked for life in prison). Thapar has also used his opinions to express pretty strong opinions about bourbon.

Timothy Tymkovich, 60 years old. Tymkovich is the chief justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and was appointed by Bush in 2003. He previously served as the Solicitor General for Colorado, for five years, where he argued before SCOTUS, including defending a Colorado law that withheld certain protections for LGBT individuals. Tymokovich wrote the 10th Circuit’s majority opinion in the *Hobby Lobby *case that later made it to the Supreme Court, arguing that the company does have religious freedom rights. (That decision was upheld by SCOTUS). In a notable 2012 case, Tymkovich wrote the opinion upholding a conviction under the Stolen Valor Act (which made it illegal to falsely claim to have won a military honor before it was overturned by SCOTUS), arguing that the First Amendment doesn’t protect known falsehoods.

David Stras, 42 years old. Stras has served as a judge on the Minnesota Supreme Court since 2010. Previously, he worked as a private attorney in D.C. and also clerked for Justice Thomas. As ThinkProgress notes, Stras has put out some interesting ideas for SCOTUS in the past, including "creating a ‘golden parachute’ for justices to encourage them to retire" and requiring justices to occasionally travel the country to hear regular cases, rather than just ones that make it to SCOTUS. Stras hasn’t ruled on major cases with national implications at this point, but his rulings have shown him to be less ideological and more focused on the letter of the law, a Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist argues.

Diane Sykes, 58 years old. Sykes has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since 2004. Previously, she was a justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and worked as a trial judge in Milwaukee. In 2011, Sykes ruled that Chicago could not ban shooting ranges under the Second Amendment. She also ruled in favor of Wisconsin’s voter ID law and for religious organizations seeking an exemption to the birth control mandate under the Affordable Care Act.

Don Willett, 50 years old. Willett has served on the Texas Supreme Court since 2005. Previously, he worked on Bush’s 2000 campaign and advised him in the White House. Willett is still on Trump’s SCOTUS list, despite the fact that he has spent months ruthlessly mocking Trump on Twitter. Willett leans libertarian and is considered a rising Republican star in legal circles. Reason magazine called his opinion in a case revolving around a 750-hour training requirement for eyebrow threaders (which he opposed) perhaps the "Most Libertarian Legal Opinion Ever Written."

Robert Young, 65 years old. Young is the Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, where he has served since 1999. Previously, he served on the state Court of Appeals. As chief justice, Young has pushed to downsize the Michigan judiciary "so that it costs no more than necessary for the efficient administration of justice," according to his official bio. Young is “the highest ranking African-American elected official” in Michigan, according to the Detroit News. Last year, Young ruled in favor of Michigan’s right to work law, prohibiting unions from requiring dues of state employees and likening them to a form of taxation. Young also threw out an opinion, drafted when liberals still controlled the Michigan court, that made it easier to sue the state over “environmental disputes,” according to the AP.

Honorable mention

The Huffington Post reported earlier this year that Trump was considering naming Peter Thiel to the Supreme Court as well. (Thiel, the founder of Paypal, has been in the news a lot this year after it became public that he funded the lawsuit that took down Gawker). But both the Trump campaign and Thiel denied that report.

— Sarah Mimms
Image via Tim Sackton/Flickr

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(586)
  • Erin
    01/25/2017
    ···

    The Supreme Court pick should have been made a year ago. President Obama was denied his appointee because of childish tactics. Conservatives should not automatically have their justice in place because they refused to do their job for a year. When people do not do their job, they are not rewarded.

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  • Jonathan
    01/26/2017
    ···

    President Obama already nominated someone to the Supreme Court. Republicans refused to do their job. I don't understand why this is not being fought. It's as if democrats simply gave in. I implore you to continue pressing this matter.

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  • Czerny
    11/16/2016
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    Most of these judges should be removed from the bench for making rulings based on personal opinion, not promoted to the SC

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  • Jolene
    11/16/2016
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    If he picks judges like the people he's hiring for his admin. We are in deep trouble. No white nationalist should be allowed. Bigotry and racism should not be tolerated!

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  • Nicole
    01/28/2017
    ···

    Do not approve any Supreme Court nominations made by Trump until Merrick Garland is approved. Republicans failed in their duty by refusing to even give Garland a hearing.

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  • Emily
    01/26/2017
    ···

    In the spirit of cooperation, I ask that you only confirm nominations that are somewhat moderate in their political leanings. Former president Obama had the courtesy to nominate Garland, who was mostly moderate as well. We the people need justices who represent and consider multiple points of view. Anything else is politicizing the highest court in the land, which does not serve the people. Thank you.

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  • Marilyncane
    01/27/2017
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    The GOP refused to give Merrick Garland, a well respected centrist, a hearing. Deny Trump any of his nominees.

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  • Robert
    01/29/2017
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    Merrick Garland should be appointed to the Supreme Court as he is best suited to represent all Americans. However, unless the President's unconfirmed radical extremist national security advisor Steve Brannon is removed as a key advisor, the probability is low. If so, resistance is the only way to protect the US Constitution from the current administration's attempts to undermine our inalienable rights.

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  • Lorra
    01/26/2017
    ···

    Dear Senators and Representative, I pray you fight for a moderate Supreme Court pick that would uphold access to abortion, civil rights for people of color and LGBTQ. I recently saw a brief list and there are some troubling issues. Filibuster if you need to. Best Lorra

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  • Katherine
    11/16/2016
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    This list is abominable.

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  • PLD
    01/24/2017
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    The separation of church and state is a guiding principle with the US Constitution. Please prevent support for Trump nominees who do not reflect a belief in such a principle by supporting the previous court decision in Roe b Wade. Furthermore, A woman's body and decisions related to it are not the job of government.

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  • Shannon
    11/16/2016
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    Appalling. I'm sick to my stomach.

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  • Ron
    01/26/2017
    ···

    We are watching and will take essential actions and vote any representative out of office in due time if they vote for Trumps current nominee for the SCOTUS. Congress should have done their job during the previous administration and they neglected their duties and responsibilities. You will be held to account!

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  • BuffWarden1012
    01/28/2017
    ···

    Greetings Congressman Fleischmann and Senators Corker and Alexander. As a constituent of your respective districts and the state of Tennessee as a whole, I implore you all to reject endorsing or supporting any of President Trump's SCOTUS nominee selections to fill the void left by the death of Anthony Scalia. None of these men or women chosen truly exemplify a clear conscience and would subsequently threaten the sanctity and clarity of the Supreme Courts' true purpose in American democracy; to "interpret" the law, not mandate it from a point of personal opinion or sentiment. These nominees clearly exemplify a long and tenuous track record of denying equality, freedom and personal liberties which are entitled to all Americans under our constitution. They possess a track record of discriminating, marginalizing and disenfranchising based upon creed, national origin, race, sexual orientation, and other demographic factors. Through all of this I must stress and emphasize to you the sanctity the 14th Amendment of our Constitution states "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within it's jurisdiction I the equal protection of the laws." In short gentlemen, I must stress to you all the necessity that "equal protection of the laws" is a guaranteed right entitled to "all" Americans in the Constitution and that to deprive any citizens of such entitlement is a travesty and a detriment to the endeavors our forefathers, our framers and following leaders swore their "lives, fortunes and sacred honor to uphold". America is a land of opportunity, but our forefathers firmly believed in the vision that such opportunity should be "shared" and "equal" for all who have come to our shores to earn the right to call themselves Americans. Congressman and Senator(s), I call upon you all as one of your constituents to reject these nominees and invest your efforts in compromising and working "with" Democrats in the House and Senate as well as President Trump respectively to find candidates for the Supreme Court who will interpret the law and cases which subsequently come before them with the rights of "all" Americans in mind and not merely some. I trust, hope and pray that you will make decisions beneficial to the well-being and tranquility for all American citizens. -Nicholas John Grenier, Chattanooga, TN

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  • Molly
    01/26/2017
    ···

    Obama already nominated someone for the Supreme Court a year ago. It is unacceptable that republicans did not fulfill their job of appointing someone in a timely fashion to replace justice Scalia. I am against all of these picks for the Supreme Court as they will try to restrict women's rights as well as LGBT rights that American citizens have been fighting to win for such a long time. Appoint Merrill Garland.

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  • Melissa
    11/19/2016
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    What happened to separation of church and state? This list is terrible.

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  • Leslie
    01/30/2017
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    Merrick Garland is a reasonable choice. Since he has been blocked please block the next nominee.

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  • Andrew
    01/31/2017
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    It is frustrating to me that the current list of possible justices of the Supreme Court that all of their goals and talking points seem to be focused on repealing and reversing established decisions - a woman's right to make choices about her reproductive health, a person's right to freely marry who they love, a citizen's access to healthcare. Instead of holding grudges, the next justice, and those that may soon follow, need to maintain the collective will of the people and move forward. I want to live in a progressive America, not one stuck in the antiquated principles of the past.

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  • Michael
    11/25/2016
    ···

    Well, if you voted for Trump hoping that his SCOTUS picks would do their best to hurt LGBTQ Americans, looks like you got your wish. We can look forward to 30 or 40 years of making life a living hell for those of our friends, family and neighbors who are a bit different from us.

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  • Jaquelynn
    01/26/2017
    ···

    These people are monsters. I am terrified for my country. I am terrified for my fellow women. I am terrified for my friends who aren't rich and white. I am terrified for my LGBT community. I fear for my environment & for space. I fear for lack of compassion Trump and his appointees have for our earth. We are going so far to the right that we are off our axis! Trump doesn't care about bringing America together. He doesn't care about helping his country feel safe. Trump may be a brilliant business man in some eyes, but the man has not a clue how to run a country. His most trusted employees are on his side and some are even worse off. Mike Pence believes in shock therapy. He thinks that smoking doesn't kill you. The new potential Supreme Court nominees believe in so much cruelty and hate. They are totally against women's rights and equality in all people. Obama CARED. He showed passion for his country and love for all people. He was courages and never gave in to all of the hate thrown towards him. In June of 2015, I was able to say that I can LEGALLY marry a woman in any state. I cried because I was so happy. And now, I'm worried that my community is going to have to hide out of fear for what people will do to us. I fear that Trump is going to piss off the wrong guy and we're going to be doomed. I fear that the honey bees will be dying off quicker than expected and trump won't try to make plans to reserve that. I fear that Flint will never have clean water because it isn't a priority. I fear for DAPL and for our new wall being built. Trump was our taxes to go to that!? There are so many bigger issues at core, but all trump cares about is getting what HE wants and HE only. I can't speak for his wife, but God, does she look sad. There are so many reasons I am against Trump. If he wants a recount so bad, then let's do it. Maybe then he won't only lose the popular vote, but the electoral vote too. This guy is out of his mind and has been caught in so many lies. But yet, we trust him....? I do not. Please, please, please hear us out!! Hear our cries!!!

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