A Look at the Judges on Trump’s Supreme Court Short List

Judge Barbara Lagoa with Gov. Ron DeSantis after he picked her for for the Florida Supreme Court in 2019. Lagoa is considered one of Trump's top picks for the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

By Elle Meyers

September 21, 2020

Here are the details on some of Trump’s potential picks, who could sway the Supreme Court to the right for years to come.

President Donald Trump announced on Monday he expects to name a Supreme Court pick by the end of the week, following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday. 

Ginsburg’s death comes just weeks before Election Day, adding a new twist to the race for the White House. A battle erupted over the weekend over whether Trump should nominate a replacement so close to the election, after Senate Republicans in 2016 denied to hold a hearing, much less a vote, on then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.  Back then, Republicans said it was too close to the presidential election to name a new justice. They were 9 months from Election Day when they made that argument. Now they say it doesn’t matter. 

Earlier this month Trump released a long list of contenders for the seat, and has said since Ginsburg’s death that he’ll “most likely” pick a woman. Here are four names that have been mentioned as leading contenders:

Amy Coney Barrett 

Amy Coney Barrett is considered to be one of the president’s top choices to replace Ginsburg. Barrett is currently a judge on the U.S Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, and clerked for former Justice Antonin Scalia 22 years ago. She graduated summa cum laude from Notre Dame Law School. 

At 48 years old, she would be the youngest justice on the bench. She is a staunch Catholic and is pro-life, according to the New York Times. In 2017, Barrett was connected to an obscure Christian group called People of Praise. The connection was controversial because the group has some Pentecostal practices, like speaking in tongues, belief in prophecy, and divine healing. 

Barrett as been described as a “textualist,” someone who interprets the law based on a plain reading of the language instead of someone who tries to understand the writer’s purpose. 

Barrett’s critics cite concerns over her stance on the right to choose and the Affordable Care Act, of which she has been publicly critical. However, during a 2017 confirmation hearing, Barrett repeatedly said she would follow the Supreme Court’s previous rulings on issues like abortion in her position as an appeals court judge. 

Barbara Lagoa

Barbara Lagoa is currently serving on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. She graduated from Columbia University School of Law and is the first Latina and Cuban-American woman to serve on the Florida Supreme Court. If appointed, she would join Justice Sonya Sotomayor as the second Latina woman to serve on the Supreme Court. 

In Lagoa’s 14-year career as a judge she has sided with businesses, pushing back against a higher minimum wage in Miami and limiting options for homeowners facing foreclosure. Much like Barrett, Lagoa interprets the law as it is written.

“It is the role of judges to apply, not to alter, the work of the people’s representatives,” she said in an opinion. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl) said that Lagoa has been reliablely pro-life. 

Allison Jones Rushing

Allison Jones Rushing currently serves on the Court of Appeals in the 4th Circuit. She graduated from Duke University School of Law, clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas and for Justice Neil Gorsuch when he was a federal court judge. 

Jones Rushing is a favorite of evangelical groups, and would also be poised to serve on the bench for decades because she is under 40 years old. 

Opponents have cited concerns for the LGTBQ+ community if Jones Rushing is appointed to the Supreme Court because of her time interning with the Alliance Defending Freedom. The Arizona-based group is a conservative, Christian non-profit that most notably defended a baker in Colorado for refusing service to a gay couple. She also defended the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which explicitly defined marriage as between a man and a woman. 

Amul Thapar

Although Trump pledged to nominate a woman as his nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Amul Thapar is still considered a top contender. 

Thapar is currently a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. He received his law degree from the University of California Berkeley. If nominated, he would be the first Asian-American to sit on the Supreme Court. 


CATEGORIES: Law and Policy


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