President Donald Trump will announce his nominee to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court either Friday or Saturday, and said he has a list of “probably four” finalists.
Trump, in a Monday morning appearance on Fox News, said he is pushing for a confirmation vote before Election Day. Democrats are accusing Republicans of hypocrisy after the GOP refused to allow confirmation hearings on Merrick Garland, whom then-President Barack Obama nominated to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia months before the election in 2016.
Ginsburg, 87, died Friday of metastatic pancreatic cancer.
Trump has promised to nominate a woman for the Supreme Court, adding his preference is for someone younger who could hold sway on the nation’s jurisprudence for potentially four or five decades.
On Monday, Trump confirmed among the top contenders are Indiana’s Amy Coney Barrett and Florida’s Barbara Lagoa, both appellate court judges he appointed. Barrett has long been a favorite among conservatives, while Lagoa has been pushed by some aides who tout her electorate advantages of being Hispanic and hailing from the key battleground state of Florida.
Trump also indicated that Allison Jones Rushing, a 38-year-old appellate judge from North Carolina, is also on his short list.
Barrett, a former professor at Notre Dame Law School, now serves on the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Barrett, a devout Catholic, is hailed by religious conservatives and others on the right as an ideological heir to conservative icon Scalia, the late Supreme Court justice for whom she clerked.
Liberals say Barrett’s legal views are too heavily influenced by her religious beliefs and fear her ascent to the nation’s highest court could lead to a scaling back of hard-fought abortion rights.
Barrett was considered a finalist in 2018 for Trump’s second nomination to the high court, which eventually went to Brett Kavanaugh after Justice Anthony Kennedy retired.
At 48, Barrett would be the youngest justice, and her tenure could last for decades. She has made her mark in law primarily as an academic at the University of Notre Dame, where she began teaching at age 30. She first donned judges' robes in 2017 after Trump nominated her to the 7th Circuit.
When Barrett’s name first arose in 2018 as a possible Trump pick, even some conservatives worried her sparse judicial record made it too hard to predict how she might rule. Nearly three years on, her judicial record now includes the authorship of about 100 opinions and several telling dissents in which Barrett displayed her clear and consistent conservative bent.
She has long expressed sympathy with a mode of interpreting the Constitution, called originalism, in which justices try to decipher original meanings of texts in assessing if someone’s rights have been violated. Many liberals oppose that strict approach, saying it is too rigid and doesn’t allow the Constitution to change with the times.
In the 2017 White House questionnaire, Barrett was asked if it was her view that abortion was always immoral. She didn’t answer the question directly but said: “If I am confirmed (to the 7th Circuit), my views on this or any other question will have no bearing on the discharge of my duties as a judge.”
In a 2013 Texas Law Review article, Barrett listed fewer than 10 cases she said are widely considered “super-precedents,” ones that no justice would dare reverse even if they believed they were wrongly decided. Among them was Brown v. Board of Education, which declared racial segregation in schools unconstitutional.
One she didn’t include on the list: Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that affirmed a woman’s right to abortion. Scholars don’t include it, she wrote, because public controversy swirling around it has never abated.
Abortion and women’s rights were the focus of a bruising 2017 confirmation process after Barrett’s nomination to the 7th Circuit.
Others pointed to Barrett’s membership of the University of Notre Dame’s “Faculty for Life” group — and that she had signed a 2015 letter to Catholic bishops affirming the “value of human life from conception to natural death.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein told Barrett her views suggested religious tenets could guide her thinking on the law, the California Democrat telling Barrett: “The conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you.”
Barrett responded that her views had evolved and that she agreed judges shouldn’t “follow their personal convictions in the decision of a case, rather than what the law requires.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, criticized Democrats for pressing Barrett on her faith, saying it could be seen as a “religious test” for the job. The Senate eventually confirmed her in a 55-43 vote, with three Democrats joining the majority.
Barrett was raised in New Orleans, the eldest child of a lawyer for Shell Oil Co. She earned her undergraduate degree in English literature in 1994 at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. She and her husband, Jesse Barrett, a former federal prosecutor, both graduated from Notre Dame Law School. They have seven children, including two adopted from Haiti and one with special needs.
Before her clerkship with Scalia from 1998 to 1999, Barrett served as law clerk for Laurence Silberman for a year at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Between clerkships and entering academia, she worked from 1999 to 2001 at the Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin law firm in Washington, D.C.
Lagoa, 52, a former federal prosecutor who was the first Cuban American to serve on the state Supreme Court in Florida, now sits on the 11th Circuit.
Lagoa was born in Miami and got her bachelor’s degree from Florida International University. A 1992 graduate of Columbia Law School, she worked as an attorney in Miami-area law firms until 2003, when she became a federal prosecutor.
In 2006, then-Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Lagoa to serve on the Third District Court of Appeal, the first Hispanic woman and the first Cuban American woman appointed to the court.
Gov. Ron DeSantis then appointed her to the Florida Supreme Court. Less than a year later, Trump picked her for the 11th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over federal cases in Florida, Alabama and Georgia.
Rushing was nominated to the 4th Circuit by Trump in 2018. She was educated at Wake Forest University and then Duke University School of Law. She clerked for Judge Neil Gorsuch, while the now-Supreme Court justice served on the 10th Circuit in 2007; and for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 2010.
Also in the mix is Joan Larsen, a 51-year-old former state judge in the battleground state of Michigan, now on the 6th Circuit.
Larsen, who has spent most of her career as a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, served in a key position in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in 2002-03, in the George W. Bush administration. She was appointed to a seat on the Michigan Supreme Court.
She was confirmed to the federal appeals court in late 2017 by a 60-38 vote. Larsen clerked for Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court.
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