Justice Neil Gorsuch, left, and Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / ALM
The White House announced five new additions Friday to its list of potential nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, though no justice has announced retirement.
The new names came in a late Friday press release that coincided with the annual conference of the Federalist Society, which has played a pivotal role in fashioning Trump’s list of potential nominees.
Following the announcement, White House Counsel Don McGahn praised the additions during a speech at the conference. “Good judges follow the law even when the decisions are unpopular. Judicial courage is as important as judicial independence,” he said to applause.
The most notable addition to the earlier list of 21 names was Brett Kavanaugh, a prominent judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Like new justice Neil Gorsuch, Kavanaugh is also a former law clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy.
When Gorsuch was nominated to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, it was viewed as a gesture toward Kennedy, reassuring him that if he retired, President Donald Trump would replace him with simpatico, respected appeals judges. Kavanaugh’s entry on the list may serve the same purpose.
Two of the potential new nominees—Amy Coney Barrett and Kevin Newsom—are newly minted judges who, if nominated soon to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, would have only brief experience as appellate judges on their resume. That is not unusual; both of President George H.W. Bush’s nominees, David Souter and Clarence Thomas, had only briefly sat on the First and D.C. Circuit, respectively, before being promoted to the high court.
“The inclusion of two more state justices—and only one from Washington (or anywhere in the Acela corridor)—also shows the national scope of the search for legal talent,” Ilya Shapiro, senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute, said in a statement. The last justice to come directly from a state court was Sandra Day O’Connor, formerly an Arizona appeals judge, in 1981.
A statement from the White House press office said Trump “will choose a nominee for a future Supreme Court vacancy, should one arise” from the newly updated list. Though rumors swirled earlier this year that Kennedy may retire, no justice has announced an upcoming retirement. Trump, as well as other conservatives, have also urged the 84-year-old Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to retire. She has said repeatedly she will remain on the court until she feels she is not able to do her job at “full steam.”
The statement said Trump is “committed to identifying and selecting outstanding jurists in the mold” of Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed to the bench earlier this year.
Here’s a snapshot of the five new judges added to the list:
Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit a little over two weeks ago. Prior to her confirmation, she was a law professor at Notre Dame Law School, her alma mater. She also clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, as well as Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Barrett’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee included some controversy as senators, including Dianne Feinstein of California, questioned if she would be able to separate her personal religious beliefs from her duties as a judge. Conservatives accused Democrats on the committee of bias against Catholics after the hearing.
Brett Kavanaugh serves on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He was was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2003, but was not confirmed until 2006. Kavanaugh earlier worked in the Bush White House, first in the White House counsel’s office from 2001 to 2003 and then as an assistant to the president until his appointment to the bench. He worked in the Office of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr from 1994 to 1997, as well as for a period in 1998.
Kavanaugh also spent time in private practice at Kirkland & Ellis, and spent a year in the Office of the Solicitor General from 1992 to 1993. A graduate of Yale Law School, he clerked for Kennedy on the high court as well as Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Judge Walter Stapleton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Kavanaugh’s name was floated as a Supreme Court contender for would-be president Mitt Romney. Some conservatives criticized the absence of Kavanaugh’s name from two earlier lists Trump published about his Supreme Court contenders.
Britt Grant was appointed to the Supreme Court of Georgia on Jan.1. She earlier served as the state’s solicitor general. She clerked for Kavanaugh, and like him, worked as a partner at Kirkland & Ellis from 2008 to 2012.
She also served in various positions in the Bush White House from 2001 to 2004, including on the Domestic Policy Council and in the Office of Cabinet Affairs. Grant is a graduate of Stanford Law School.
Kevin Newsom was confirmed August 1 for his spot on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. He is a former Alabama solicitor general, and worked as a partner at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings prior to his nomination.
He clerked for Justice David Souter and Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He received his J.D. from Harvard Law School.
Newsom after his Supreme Court clerkship joined Covington & Burling’s appellate litigation team in Washington. He was appointed in 2003 as Alabama solicitor general.
Patrick Wyrick was appointed to the Supreme Court of Oklahoma on February 9. He served as solicitor general of the state for six years prior to his appointment. He worked in private practice at the firm of Gabe Gotwals from 2008 to 2011, and clerked for judge James Payne on the U.S District Courts for the Eastern and Northern Districts of Oklahoma. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Law School. Wyrick appeared before the Supreme Court after deathrow inmates sued Oklahoma after a botched execution, claiming the use of the drug midazolam constituted a cruel and unusual punishment. The justices sided with Oklahoma 5-4.
Trump’s full list of 25 contenders for a future Supreme Court vacancy is posted below:
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