- The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has raised the stakes for the fate of the Supreme Court.
- President Donald Trump earlier this month announced 20 new names that he may nominate if he’s reelected, in an effort to energize evangelicals and socially conservative voters.
- Though Trump may put forth a pick before then because of the sudden vacancy created by the late Ginsburg.
- Trump added Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and Tom Cotton to his shortlist, though only Cotton expressed interest in the position after the announcement.
- If Trump wins in 2020, he could appoint a sweeping conservative majority in his second term.
- Here’s a list of the contenders.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday evening has raised the stakes for the fate of the Supreme Court.
Ginsburg, who died at age 87 due to cancer-related complications, has created an empty seat on the bench, allowing President Donald Trump to put forth a new nominee. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already indicated that he plans to consider a confirmation vote.
The president has a roster of potential picks ready and unveiled 20 additions to his list on Sept. 9.
While it’s typical of any administration to keep a running shortlist of possible Supreme Court nominees, Trump’s announcement, which included an array of conservative judges and lawyers as contenders — along with three Republican senators — sent a nod to conservative voters and may boost his 2020 bid, less than two months ahead of Election Day. During his 2016 campaign, Trump released similar lists that became key to rallying conservative support.
“Joe Biden has refused to release his list, perhaps because he knows the names are so extremely far left that they could never withstand public scrutiny or receive acceptance,” Trump said during his announcement. “He must release a list of justices for people to properly make a decision as to how they will vote. It is very important that he do so.”
So far Trump has cemented a 5-4 conservative majority on the bench. He added Justices Neil Gorsuch in September 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in July 2018.
If the Senate confirms a new Trump nominee, he could tip the scale into a greater Republican-appointed majority at 6-3.
And if Trump wins a second term, he may create an overwhelmingly conservative court at 7-2. It’s likely that another vacany may open up within the next four years, because of aging liberal justice Stephen Breyer, who turned 82 last month.
The new contenders announced include:
- Bridget Bade, 54: Bade is a circuit judge of the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. She attended law school at Arizona State University and previously served as a magistrate judge on the US District Court for the District of Arizona.
- Daniel Cameron, 34: Cameron was elected as attorney general of Kentucky in 2019. He previously served as legal counsel to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and worked in private practice before running for political office. Cameron has recently faced criticism for his handling of the Breonna Taylor case. He was a featured speaker at the 2020 Republican National Convention.
- Paul Clement, 54: Clement served as US solicitor general from 2004 to 2008 under President George W. Bush. He also served as acting US attorney general in September 2007.
- Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, 43: Cotton was first elected to the Senate in 2014, defeating Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor. He has compiled a staunchly conservative voting record over the past six years.
- Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, 49: Cruz was elected to the Senate in 2010 as part of the Tea Party wave. He attended law school at Harvard and served as solicitor general of Texas before running for public office. In 2016, he sought the Republican presidential nomination.
- Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, 40: Hawley graduated from Yale Law School and clerked for Chief Justice John Roberts. He was elected as attorney general of Missouri in 2016 before successfully running for Senate in 2018, defeating two-term Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
- Steven Engel, 46: Engel is the assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice. He has served in the administration since 2017.
- Noel Francisco, 51: Francisco is a former US solicitor general. He was a staunch defender of the Trump administration’s position to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
- James Ho: Ho is a circuit judge on the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. He clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas and served as chief counsel of the subcommittees on the Constitution and immigration under Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.
- Gregory Katsas, 56: Katsas has been a circuit judge for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since December 2017. He was previously a deputy White House counsel in the Trump administration.
- Barbara Lagoa, 52: Lagoa is a circuit judge for the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. She graduated from Columbia Law School and was the first Hispanic woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Florida.
- Christopher Landau, 56: Landau has been the US ambassador to Mexico since August 2019. He clerked for Supreme Court Justices Thomas and Antonin Scalia, later serving in private practice.
- Carlos Muñiz, 51: Muñiz is a justice on the Florida Supreme Court, serving since January 2019. He previously served as general counsel of the US Department of Education.
- Martha Pacold, 41: Pacold has been a district judge for the Northern District of Illinois since August 2019.
- Peter Phipps, 47: Phipps, a graduate of Stanford Law School, is a circuit judge of the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. He was previously a judge of the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
- Sarah Pitlyk: Pitlyk is a judge for the Eastern District of Missouri. She graduated from Yale Law School and clerked for Kavanaugh during his tenure on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
- Lawrence VanDyke, 47: VanDyke is a circuit judge on the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. He previously served as solicitor general of both Montana and Nevada.
- Allison Jones Rushing: Rushing, a member of the Federalist Society, has been a circuit judge on the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit since March 2019.
- Kate Comerford Todd: Todd is a former senior vice president and chief counsel for the US Chamber Litigation Center. She graduated from Harvard Law School and clerked for Thomas.
- Kyle Duncan, 48: Duncan is a US 5th Circuit judge, serving since May 2018 — part of the Trump administration’s mass appointment of conservative judges to federal courts. During his Senate confirmation hearing, he was grilled by Democrats for how his religious beliefs could affect his rulings and afterward hailed by conservatives for securing the seat. He graduated with a law degree from Louisiana State University.
—Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) September 9, 2020
—Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) September 9, 2020
—Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) September 9, 2020
The names add to previous lists of people under consideration, including:
- Raymond Kethledge, 51: Kethledge has served as a circuit judge of the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit since 2008 and was appointed by Bush. Kethledge had previously clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kethledge met with Trump as a finalist for the Supreme Court seat before that ultimately went to Kavanaugh.
- Amul Thapar, 51: Thapar also serves on the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. He was a front-runner for the Supreme Court in both 2016 and 2018, when he was a US district judge. If selected this time, Thapar would make history as the first Asian American on the court.
- Amy Coney Barrett, 48: Barrett, a hero to the religious right, also met with Trump as a top candidate for the court two years ago, thrilling conservatives. She graduated from Notre Dame University Law School and later returned to teach before being appointed to the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in October 2017.
- Andy Oldham, 42: Oldham also serves on the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, since July 2018. Previously, he was general counsel to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. He graduated from Harvard Law School and has clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.
- Elizabeth Branch, 52: Branch has been a circuit judge of the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit since March 2018. She had worked as a senior official in the George W. Bush administration and later as a judge for the Georgia Court of Appeals.
- Mike Lee, 49: Lee is a Republican US senator from Utah who was elected in 2010. Since entering the Senate, he has compiled a mostly conservative voting record, with some streaks of libertarianism. After graduating from law school at Brigham Young University, Lee clerked for Alito, who at the time was a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. As a sitting lawmaker, he would be a more unconventional choice for the Supreme Court, but he’d likely attract some bipartisan support in a confirmation process.
- Joan Larsen, 51: Larsen has been a circuit judge of the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which covers Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, since 2017. She graduated at the top of her class at Northwestern University’s law school and clerked for Judge David Sentelle of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and Scalia. An Iowa native, she would add a rare Midwestern voice to the court.
- Thomas Hardiman, 55: A leading pick for the two previous Supreme Court vacancies during the Trump presidency, Hardiman has been a judge of the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit since April 2007. He graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center and was an attorney in private practice before being nominated and confirmed to a judicial seat on the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, where he served from 2003 until joining the US Court of Appeals. As a federal judge, his votes have been decidedly conservative, with his opinions on gun-rights cases reflecting an originalist approach.
- Britt Grant, 42: Grant is a judge of the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, where she has served since August 2018. While a student at Stanford Law School, she was a chapter president of the Federalist Society, the influential conservative legal organization. After law school, she clerked for Kavanaugh when he was a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Grant served as the solicitor general of Georgia from 2015 to 2017 before being appointed to a seat on the Supreme Court of Georgia. She was elevated to the 11th Circuit the next year.
- Allison Eid, 55: Eid is a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. She graduated from the University of Chicago Law School and clerked for Thomas. From 2005 to 2006, she was solicitor general of Colorado, and then served as an associate justice on the Colorado Supreme Court from May 2006 to November 2017, when she joined the 10th Circuit.