Donald Trump’s election and its impact on the Supreme Court will be one of the legacies that may ultimately have the greatest effect on the country he is to shortly govern.
In an article to be published in January by the ABA Journal, “Trump’s Court: How will the next president shape the Supreme Court?” by Mark Walsh, the rejection of President Obama’s nominee Merrick B Garland has now paid off for Republicans.
“We would have had the most liberal court since the late 1960s” had Garland or another Democratic appointee been confirmed, says Roger Clegg, the president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity and a former Department of Justice official under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. “But we’re not going to have that now.”
Trump’s list of 21 potential nominees is a conservative list with all but one a sitting judge in the federal or state court.
John G. Malcolm, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, says that Trump’s political instincts led him to realize that many conservatives were skeptical of his commitment to their ideals.
“He put together a thoughtful and dynamic list that managed to assuage the concerns of a lot of conservatives,” says Malcolm, who saw six of the eight names he provided to Trump end up on the list of potential nominees.
Besides Lee, Malcolm’s suggested names that made the list were William H. Pryor Jr. of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Atlanta; Diane S. Sykes of the 7th Circuit at Chicago; Steven M. Colloton and Raymond W. Gruender of the 8th Circuit at St. Louis; and Justice Don R. Willett of the Texas Supreme Court, that state’s highest court for civil matters.
Other’s on the Trump List were provided by the Federalist Society, the organization formed in 1982 as a conservative and libertarian answer to the perceived liberal orthodoxy of U.S. law schools.
Trump “really broadened the perspective by looking at state supreme court justices,” says Carrie Severino, the chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group in Washington, D.C. “That [position] gives you a much better view of their judicial philosophy because it is a court of last resort.”