Donald Trump has just released his short list of candidates to fill any vacancies on the Supreme Court should he be elected to the White House.
There is currently one open slot on the Supreme Court and it is thought that the next president will fill that slot and possible several others. Analysts say as many as 4 or even 5 justices could be appointed by the next president.
This will likely be a central issue in the presidential election later this year, so let’s take a look at some of the possible nominees along with their Wikipedia bios.
Steven M. Colloton of Iowa
According to his Wikipedia page: Colloton served as a special assistant to the attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel within the U.S. Justice Department from 1990 to 1991. He was an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Iowa from 1991 to 1999. From 1995 to 1996 he was an associate independent counsel in the Office of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. He was in private practice in Iowa from 1999 to 2001 and served as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Iowa College of Law in 2000. After George W. Bush’s election in 2000, Colloton was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa and served until 2003.
Colloton was nominated to the Eighth Circuit by President George W. Bush on February 12, 2003, to a seat vacated by David R. Hansen. He was confirmed nearly seven months later by a vote of 94-1 by the Senate on September 4, 2003, and received his commission on September 10, 2003. He is on presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court justices.
Allison Eid of Colorado
From her Wikipedia page: In 2002, President George W. Bush appointed Eid to serve on the Permanent Committee for the Oliver Wendell Holmes Devise, which writes the history of the U.S. Supreme Court and sponsors the Oliver Wendell Holmes Lecture. In 2005, Republican Governor Bill Owens appointed Eid to serve as Solicitor General of Colorado. A year later, Owens appointed Eid to serve as the 95th Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court. In 2008, 75% of Colorado voters voted to retain Eid on the Supreme Court.
Raymond W. Gruender of Missouri
From his Wikipedia page: Prior to joining the federal bench, Gruender worked as an attorney both in private practice and public service. After law school, he was in private practice at Lewis, Rice & Fingersh from 1987–1990, at which point he became an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri. In 1994, he ran for election as St. Louis County Attorney and lost to the incumbent. He then returned to private practice at Thompson Coburn. In 1996, he was the Missouri state campaign director for Bob Dole’s president campaign. In 2000, he left Thompson Coburn to rejoin the United States Attorneys’ Office, and in 2001 he became the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, a position he remained in until his confirmation to the Eighth Circuit in 2004.
Gruender was nominated to the Eighth Circuit by President George W. Bush on September 29, 2003 to fill a seat vacated by Judge Pasco Bowman II. The United States Senate confirmed him almost eight months later on May 20, 2004 by a vote of 97–1, with the only vote against his confirmation coming from U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin. Gruender received his commission on June 5, 2004.
Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania
From his Wikipedia page: Hardiman was nominated to the Third Circuit by President George W. Bush on September 13, 2006 to fill a seat vacated by Judge Richard Lowell Nygaard, who assumed senior status in 2005. He was confirmed to that seat over seven months later by the U.S. Senate on March 15, 2007 by a vote of 95-0. He was the seventh judge appointed to the Third Circuit by Bush.
Hardiman was earlier appointed by Bush to be a judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. He was nominated to that position on April 9, 2003 and confirmed by voice vote on October 22, 2003.
Raymond Kethledge of Michigan
From his Wikipedia page: Kethledge was first nominated to the Sixth Circuit by President George W. Bush on June 28, 2006 to replace Judge James L. Ryan. From November 2001 to March 2006, Henry Saad had been nominated to the seat, but he had been filibustered by the Senate Democrats and later withdrew. Kethledge’s nomination lapsed when the 109th Congress adjourned in December 2006. Bush again nominated Kethledge on March 19, 2007. However, his nomination stalled for over a year due to opposition from Michigan’s two Democratic Senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow.
In April 2008, the Bush Administration struck a deal with Levin and Stabenow to break the logjam on judicial nominees to federal courts in Michigan. In exchange for Levin and Stabenow supporting Kethledge’s nomination (and that of United States Attorney Stephen J. Murphy III to a district court position), Bush nominated Democratic Michigan state judge Helene White, a failed former Clinton nominee to the Sixth Circuit. Soon afterwards, Kethledge, White and Murphy were granted a joint hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 7, 2008. Kethledge was voted out of committee by voice vote on June 12, 2008. On June 24, 2008, he was confirmed by voice vote, almost exactly two years after his original nomination. He received his commission on July 7, 2008. Kethledge was the eighth judge nominated to the Sixth Circuit by Bush and confirmed by the United States Senate.
Joan Larsen of Michigan
From her Wikipedia page: Larsen has been a professor at the University of Michigan School of Law since 1998. She clerked for David B. Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and for Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court. She was assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel from January 2002 to May 2003.
On October 1, 2015, she was appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court by Gov. Rick Snyder. She will have to stand for election on November 8, 2016, to fill the remainder of Kelly’s unexpired term, which runs through the end of 2018. She is on presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court justices.
Thomas Lee of Utah
From his Wikipedia page: Thomas Rex Lee: Thomas Rex Lee (born 1964) is the Associate Chief Justice on the Utah Supreme Court. His nomination unanimously passed a vote by the Utah Supreme Court Judiciary Committee in mid-June 2010, and he was sworn in July 19, 2010.
Justice Lee had one of his clerks later clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Lee is also a pioneer in the application of corpus linguistics to determine ordinary meaning, being the first American judge to do so in an opinion.
Justice Lee is the son of former United States Solicitor General Rex E. Lee. He received his bachelors in economics from Brigham Young University (BYU) and his law degree from the University of Chicago Law School. After graduating from law school, he clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court of the United States and Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Justice Lee has been a faculty member at BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School since 1997, where he is the Rex and Maureen Rawlinson Professor of Law and teaches in an adjunct capacity after his appointment to the Utah Supreme Court. In 2008 Justice Lee was appointed associate dean for faculty and curriculum at the Clark Law School. Prior to his appointment to the Utah Supreme Court, Justice Lee also worked in private practice for the law firm of Howard, Phillips and Andersen.
In private practice, Justice Lee specialized in intellectual property law. Many of the intellectual property rights cases he has been involved in revolved around trade-mark infringements brought by or against automobile manufacturers such as General Motors and Ford Motor Company. He has also written multiple papers on the issues related to counting non-residents in the census with Lara J. Wolfson. He was Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Division of the United States Justice Department from 2004-2005. In 2002-2004 he served as the lead counsel in cases brought by the state of Utah in relation to plans to put nuclear waste on the Gosuite Indian Reservation.
Justice Lee and his wife Kimberly are the parents of six children. He is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His brother, Mike Lee, was elected a U.S. Senator from Utah in 2010.
William H. Pryor Jr. of Alabama
From his Wikipedia page: From 1995–1997, he served as Alabama’s deputy attorney general. He became the state’s Attorney General in 1997. He was, at that time, the youngest state attorney general in the United States. Pryor was elected in 1998 and reelected in 2002. At reelection, Pryor garnered nearly 59% of the vote, the highest percentage of any statewide candidate.
Pryor’s legacy as attorney general has come under fire, however, from news organizations and racial justice advocates. Criticism has centered, in particular, on Pryor’s refusal to reopen the case of Anthony Ray Hinton, an Alabama man who spent nearly 30 years on death row before his conviction was vacated by the United States Supreme Court. Hinton was released on April 3, 2015. Over thirteen years earlier, Pryor had rejected new evidence presented by Hinton’s defense lawyers, stating that, “[the] experts did not prove Mr. Hinton’s innocence and the state does not doubt his guilt.”
Pryor also received national attention in 2003 when he called for the removal of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who had disobeyed a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building. Pryor said that although he agreed with the propriety of displaying the Ten Commandments in a courthouse, he was bound to follow the court order and uphold the rule of law. Pryor personally prosecuted Moore for violations of the Canons of Judicial Ethics, and the Alabama Court of the Judiciary unanimously removed Moore from office.
David Stras of Minnesota
From his Wikipedia page: Stras clerked on two federal courts of appeal, for Judges Melvin Brunetti on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and J. Michael Luttig on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Stras then worked at the D.C. office of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood for a year, after which he clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas of the United States Supreme Court.
Stras was a professor of law at the University of Minnesota Law School from 2004 to 2010, teaching and writing in the areas of federal courts and jurisdiction, constitutional law, criminal law, and law and politics. He also served as co-director of the Institute for Law and Politics. Stras has contributed to research on such topics as judicial pensions and life tenure for judges. He has also studied judicial appointments and the politics of courts.
Stras was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court by Governor Tim Pawlenty, with his term beginning on July 1, 2010. He was sworn in on July 12, 2010 in a public ceremony. Stras was elected to a six-year term in 2012. Prior to his appointment, he was a frequent guest on legal topics at Minnesota Public Radio. He is believed to be the first Jewish justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court. He is on presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court justices.
Diane Sykes of Wisconsin
From her Wikipedia page: Sykes graduated from Brown Deer High School in 1976 and then earned a B.S. degree in journalism at Northwestern University in 1980 and a J.D. at Marquette University Law School in 1984. She married conservative Milwaukee radio disc jockey Charlie Sykes in 1980. The couple had two children but divorced in 1999.
After law school, Sykes clerked for Judge Terence T. Evans at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. From 1985 to 1992, she worked in private practice as a litigator for Whyte & Hirschboeck, a medium-sized law firm in Milwaukee. Sykes won election to a newly created trial judge seat on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 1992, serving in the misdemeanor, felony, and civil divisions. She left the trial court in 1999 for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, where she served until her appointment to the Seventh Circuit in 2004. After being appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, she was elected to the court, defeating Louis B. Butler, Jr., who was later appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court by Governor Jim Doyle in 2004.
Don Willett of Texas
A native Texan, Willett was born and reared in Talty in Kaufman County. His father died at the age of forty, when Willett was six, and he and his older sister (Donny and Donna) were reared by their mother, Doris, who waited tables to support the family. Neither of Willett’s parents finished high school. Willett attended public schools in Forney in Kaufman County, having graduated in 1984, and then became his family’s first college graduate.
Willett received a triple-major BBA (economics, finance, public administration) from Baylor University in 1988. While at Baylor, he was a member of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce. He received his Juris Doctor with honors, along with an A.M. in political science, from Duke University in 1992.
After law school, Willett clerked for Judge Jerre Stockton Williams at the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Willett then practiced employment and labor law in the Austin office of Haynes and Boone, LLP from 1993-1996. During that time, he also served as senior fellow with the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Justice Willett has also served as a non-resident fellow with the Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society (PRRUCS) at the University of Pennsylvania.
In April 1996, he joined then-Governor George W. Bush’s administration as Director of Research and Special Projects, advising on various legal and policy issues. In 2000-2001, Willett worked on the Bush-Cheney Presidential Campaign and Transition Team. In the White House, Willett was Special Assistant to the President and Director of Law and Policy for the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (WHOFBCI). He drafted the first two executive orders of the Bush presidency, one creating the WHOFBCI and the other creating related offices in five cabinet agencies. In early 2002, Willett was appointed Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Office of Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he helped coordinate the selection and confirmation of federal judges. He also supervised policy initiatives such as the PROTECT Act of 2003 to combat child abduction and exploitation. Willett also led development of an executive order to expedite U.S. citizenship for immigrant service members fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Willett returned to Texas in early 2003 to become Deputy Texas Attorney General for Legal Counsel in the office of newly elected Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. As the AG’s chief legal counsel, Willett led the agency’s core legal divisions (opinion committee, open records, general counsel, public finance, intergovernmental relations, and litigation technical support). Besides giving the AG legal advice on various issues, Willett also helped with select litigation, including efforts to protect the Ten Commandments monument on the Texas Capitol grounds and also the Pledge of Allegiance when it was challenged for including the words “under God.” Willett was serving in this Deputy Attorney General position when he was appointed to the Texas Supreme Court in August 2005.
All Court justices have liaison assignments to help improve different aspects of the civil justice system, and Willett is liaison to the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism, the Task Force to Ensure Judicial Readiness in Times of Emergency, and the Court Reporters Certification Board.