Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Wednesday released a list of 11 names of judges he plans to vet to fill the empty seat on the U.S. Supreme Court vacated by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Associated Press reported.
Trump’s list includes: Steven Colloton of Iowa; Allison Eid of Colorado; Raymond Gruender of Missouri; Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania; Raymond Kethledge of Michigan; Joan Larsen of Michigan; Thomas Lee of Utah; William Pryor of Alabama; David Stras of Minnesota; Diane Sykes of Wisconsin; and Don Willett of Texas. It’s unclear if these people support his campaign or would serve in a Trump administration. Pryor, at one point, made fun of Trump on Twitter.
After Republicans expressed concerns that Trump would not nominate a conservative enough judge to the Supreme Court if he is elected, the New York real estate magnate said in March he would release a list of names. He said at the time he would seek advice from the conservative Heritage Foundation in compiling his list, and five of the names on Trump’s list do overlap with a list the Heritage Foundation put out in late March. Those five are Pryor, Sykes, Colloton, Gruender and Willett.
Willett of the Texas Supreme Court shares something crucial with Trump: a love for Twitter. The judge was named Texas’ “Tweeter Laureate” by the Texas Legislature in 2015 for tweeting at least 10 times each day on top of addressing his heavy caseload. “I’m the most avid judicial tweeter in America, which is like being the tallest Munchkin in Oz,” he once tweeted. His other messages include: “Daddy-Daughter breakfast dates are THE BEST!” and “When it comes to legislating from the bench — I literally can’t even.”
He was first appointed to the court by Republican Gov. Rick Perry in 2005. He went on to win two elections and will be on the ballot again in 2018, the New York Times reported. Willett is one of the five potential nominees on Trump's list who were also on the Heritage Foundation's recommended list of names. However, despite his conservative credentials, Willett has repeatedly mocked Trump on Twitter, which suggests he might not be the biggest fan of a Trump presidency.
Pryor, a Catholic Republican, served as editor-in-chief of the Tulane Law Review as a law student in Louisiana before clerking for Judge John Minor Wisdom of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and then entering private practice. He served as attorney general of Alabama from 1997 to 2004, the youngest person in that role in the nation. In 2004, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to the bench for the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. He has called Roe v. Wade “the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law” and said Alabama’s death penalty should not be decided by “nine octogenarian lawyers who happen to sit on the Supreme Court.”
Lee, a Mormon Republican, clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in the 1990s. As an appellate lawyer, he represented automakers Porsche, Volkswagen and Ford and then represented Utah in a challenge of the 2000 Census. He is the son of former Brigham Young University President Rex E. Lee, who founded the influential Mormon institution’s law school, and the brother of Mike Lee, a U.S. senator in Utah.
“I believe he is perfectly suited for this office,” Thomas said in 2010 when Lee was sworn in as a Utah Supreme Court justice after delivering the oath of office in the court’s chambers. “Tom Lee’s life has prepared him for this calling.”
Sykes is a judge on the Seventh Circuit and former justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. She was nominated by Bush and lauded by conservatives for a ruling in Ezell v. Chicago, which prevented the city from instituting a ban on firing ranges in the city. She also opposed abortion.
“Justice Sykes often disregards the rights of the accused. She refused to overturn a conviction in a case where one of the jurors could not speak English. The juror had stated as much on his juror form and the jury itself sent a note to the trial judge to that effect during deliberations, but the defendant was convicted anyway. She was the only justice to vote to uphold the conviction. In another egregious case, she was the sole dissenter when the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that evidence gathered as a result of interrogating a person in custody who had not been issued a Miranda warning had to be excluded from trial,” the National Council of Jewish Women wrote in 2003. “Justice Sykes was in the minority when she voted that the state of Wisconsin had no responsibility to provide an adequate public school education. Although the court held that the school funding program in effect did not completely deprive students of a basic education and therefore did not violate the state’s constitution, the majority decision did set forth the standards that school funding had to meet in the future, allowing future challenges.”
Trump has previously invoked Sykes’ name as a potential Supreme Court justice. He brought her up on “Meet The Press” in February, and when she turned up on the Heritage Foundation's list of judges earlier this year, Right Wing Watch noted her rulings in favor of big businesses and upholding voter ID laws.
“I think there are some great people out there. Diane Sykes from Wisconsin, from what everybody tells me, would be outstanding,” he said.
Stras, a Minnesota Supreme Court justice, also clerked for Thomas. He is Jewish.
“Justice Stras is an intelligent, thoughtful, and down-to-earth person whose record demonstrates a commitment to limited, constitutional government and the notion that judges should decide cases based on the Constitution and its original meaning,” the National Review wrote in 2012.
Stras has been critical of the politicization of the judicial appointment process, writing, “the Court’s own ventures into contentious areas of social policy—such as school integration, abortion, and homosexual rights—have raised the stakes of confirmation battles even higher."
Colloton, from Iowa, is one of the judges who was listed on the Heritage Foundation’s suggested judges. He was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. He previously worked as a special assistant to the attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and he worked for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr as a U.S. attorney. Star is best known for his investigation of the controversy around President Bill Clinton’s Whitewater real estate investments, which turned into the Monica Lewinsky investigation and led to Clinton’s impeachment.
The site Right Wing Watch raises a number of concerns about Colloton’s record, noting that he joined a ruling making the Eighth Circuit the only appellate court in the nation to find the Obama administration’s efforts to accommodate religious objectors to the contraceptive mandate under the Affordable Care Act was insufficient. He also dissented from rulings that upheld rights of employees and consumers and from a case finding a city had violated the Voting Rights Act.
Larsen was appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to the Michigan Supreme Court in 2015. She previously served as a clerk under Scalia and worked as deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush administration. ProPublica and the ACLU named Larsen as co-author of an unreleased 2002 memo on Habeus corpus relief for detainees, but she later denied her involvement.
"I don't think that judges are a policy making branch of government, and our role is to serve the people by enforcing laws," she has said.
Kethledge, a Republican, is a circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit , which hears appeals from the federal district courts of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. He clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court and was an attorney for Ford Motor Co., giving him experience in both private practice and public service.
Eid sits on the Colorado Supreme Court and has served in that position since 2006. Before joining the court, she served as Solicitor General of Colorado. Earlier in her career, she worked as a special assistant and speechwriter to President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of education, and clerked on the Supreme Court for Thomas, one of the most conservative judges on the bench.
Gruender was appointed by Bush to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and was also on the Heritage Foundation suggested list of judges. When Heritage put him on its list, it cited his compelling personal story and said he was known to be a “solid legal craftsman.”
In his time on the bench, he has made rulings that would increase restrictions on abortion providers and opposed upholding desegregation efforts. Notably, he dissented from a decision that upheld an injunction against requiring abortion providers to inform patients that, among other things, “abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.”
Hardiman, from Pennsylvania, was appointed by Bush to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and was previously a U.S. district judge. He has ruled on a number of notable cases dealing with prisons and criminal justice, for example, dissenting from a Third Circuit ruling that said Delaware prison officials could be sued for failing to provide adequate suicide prevention systems.