Trump’s Supreme Court Pick: What to Know About the Top 4

President Donald Trump is scheduled to announce his Supreme Court nominee Monday at 9 p.m. ET. He is expected to choose among four top candidates drawn from a longer list of conservative contenders.

Trump was tasked with nominating his second Supreme Court pick after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement last month. Here’s what you should know about each of Trump’s four finalists.

Amy Coney Barrett
The lone woman on Trump’s reported shortlist of finalists, Amy Coney Barrett joined the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, which serves Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, in October 2017. The president nominated her last spring.

Barrett, who worked as a law professor at Notre Dame, is affiliated with the Christian group People of Praise, according to NBC News. Her Roman Catholic faith became an issue during her confirmation last fall to be an appeals court judge.

However, she told senators that she would not allow her personal beliefs to influence her judicial decisions.

In a 2013 presentation to one of her classes at Notre Dame, Barrett, 46, said the framework of Roe v. Wade “essentially permitted abortion on demand” and “recognizes no state interest in the life of a fetus,” according to NBC News. She also explained her belief that life begins at conception.

“We shouldn’t be putting people on the court that share our policy preferences,” Barrett said during a 2016 speech at Jacksonville University’s Public Policy Institute. “We should be putting people on the court who want to apply the Constitution.”

Barrett worked in private practice in Washington, D.C., and served as a law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia and Judge Laurence H. Silberman.

Thomas Hardiman
President George W. Bush nominated Thomas Hardiman to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, which covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, in 2007. Hardiman had previously served as a trial judge in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania and worked in private practice in Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.

Hardiman, 53, graduated from Notre Dame and Georgetown Law School and started his career as a legal associate in Washington, D.C.

Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, serves on the same appeals court. Hardiman was on the president’s previous list of Supreme Court candidates before he nominated Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed in April 2017.

Hardiman’s most notable opinions focus on religious freedom, prisoner’s rights and the Second Amendment, according to The Heritage Foundation.

“I have no hesitation in applying a law regardless of what I might think about it,” Hardiman said during a Senate confirmation hearing. “I think any good judge recognizes his or her place in our constitutional government, and that place is not to upset the will of the people as expressed through their elected representatives.”

Hardiman was the author of the 2009 opinion in Brian D. Prowel v. Wise Business Forms, a case that featured a gay employee who claimed he was discriminated against because of his sex, sexual orientation and religious views of his employer. Hardiman was part of a three-judge panel that ruled the man had a valid sex-stereotyping claim but noted sexual orientation isn’t protected under Title VII, according to NBC News.

Some courts have since ruled that sexual-orientation discrimination is included under Title VII, though the opinion followed precedent at the time.

Brett Kavanaugh
President George Bush nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. after Kavanaugh spent more than five years working in the Bush administration. He served as an assistant to the president, staff secretary to the president and senior associate counsel to the president.

Kavanaugh, 53, has ties to Kennedy, having served as a law clerk to the retiring justice in October 1993.

The Yale Law School graduate also spent a year as an attorney in the office of the U.S. solicitor general, which is responsible for arguing before the Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh was the primary author of the report to Congress about the Monica Lewinsky scandal that spelled out possible grounds for Bill Clinton’s impeachment, according to the The Heritage Foundation.

But he also once wrote that Congress should explore a law protecting a current president from prosecution, criminal investigation or indictment while in office, according to The Heritage Foundation.

“To be sure, the constitutional text does not answer all questions,” Kavanaugh said in May 2014. “Sometimes the constitutional text is ambiguous, such as the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses. No doubt that’s true. But in far fewer places than one would think. As I like to say to my law clerks and my students, we should not strain to find ambiguity in clarity.”

Raymond Kethledge
Raymond Kethledge, 51, now sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th District, which serves Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. He graduated from the University of Michigan and also served as a law clerk to Kennedy. Kethledge has spent time in private practice in Michigan and served as counsel at Ford Motor Co.

During the interview process, Trump found Kethledge to be “likable but comparatively dull,” according to The New York Times. Some conservatives aren’t fond of Kethledge because of his stance on issues like immigration, according to the Times.

Kethledge was recognized for his opinion in EEOC v. Kaplan Higher Education Corp., in which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the education company for conducting credit checks on potential students. Kethledge opposed the commission’s argument in an opinion The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board deemed the “Opinion of the Year,” according to The Heritage Foundation.

In a June 2017 case that highlighted a drug used in Ohio’s execution cocktails, Kethledge wrote that the Constitution does not provide protections against pain during executions.

“Some risk of pain ‘is inherent in any method of execution – no matter how humane,'” Kethledge wrote in a June 2017 opinion. “And the Constitution does not guarantee ‘a pain-free execution.’ Different people may have different moral intuitions as to whether – taking into account all the relevant circumstances – the potential risk of pain here is acceptable.”

—Scott Gelman contributed to this story


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