“Supreme Ambition” SCOTUS Short List

January 18th, 2015

In David Lat’s charming and engaging new novel “Supreme Ambition,” (I strongly recommend it!), there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Several of the law clerks in the novel gossip about possible Republican nominations to fill the seat of the now-deceased Justice Scalia clone, “Justice Keegan.” All of these names are not-too-veiled references to actual Circuit Judges, who would be on any short-list in a future Republican administration.

From the 8th Circuit, Judge Steven M. Colloton:

“Well, among judges, Steve Collins of the Eighth Circuit is getting buzz,” I said. “People like that he’s from the midwest rather than the Acela corridor. Joan Biskupic and Tony Mauro think he has the edge.”

From the 6th Circuit, Judges Jeffrey Sutton and Raymond Kethledge, and from the 10th Circuit, Neal Gorsuch:

“He’s well regarded,” said Amit, “but young. The same goes for Jeff Stuart and Ray Kelton on the Sixth Circuit, and Neal Gosford on the Tenth Circuit. Brilliant former SCOTUS clerks who come from flyover country— coastal qualifications, heartland appeal. But they need more judicial experience. LaFount might want to save them for later— like when Hannah Greenberg’s seat opens up. At least that’s what Jan Crawford thinks, and she has very good sources in conservative circles.”

From the D.C. Circuit, Judges Janice Rogers Brown and Brett Kavanaugh,

“Her sources say Rashida Williams of the D.C. Circuit,” I said. “Currently on the most prestigious circuit court, previously on the California Supreme Court. Smart, African American, a woman …” “And unconfirmable,” Amit said. “I agree with Jeff Toobin: put a typewriter in front of her and she turns into a loose cannon. Hard-core libertarians support Williams because of all these speeches and articles of hers criticizing the New Deal, but there’s no way she gets past the Senate. If a D.C. Circuit judge gets it, Brent Kirkpatrick is most likely.”

From the 5th Circuit, Judge Edward Prado:

“How about that Latino judge in the Fifth Circuit?” asked James. “He’s on a lot of the shortlists.” “Ramon Guerrero,” Amit said . . . “And they have a lot of sway on judicial issues.” “The hard right might care if Guerrero were out, but he’s not,” Amit said. “His main problems are that he’s a little old and he has some random dissents and concurrences in his past— affirmative action, abortion— that could come back to haunt him.”

From the 9th Circuit, of course, the inestimable Judge Frank Polanksi, I mean Alex Kozinski (9th Circuit):

“What about Judge Polanski? Could he get it over our boss?” I asked. …. “He has some advantages,” Amit said. “He’s more brilliant than the judge. He has the Polanski Mafia working behind the scenes for him— they’re at the White House counsel’s office, and the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the Office of Legal Policy at the DOJ. But he has disadvantages too. Some people view him as less predictable than Stinson, less consistently conservative— occasionally he ‘libs out’ on some issue he gets a bee in his bonnet over. We know how unreliable he can be when it comes to en banc votes.” “Judge Polanski is conservative but principled,” I said. “He ‘libs out’ when he feels the law requires a liberal result.” “Presidents prefer predictable over principled in SCOTUS nominees,” said Amit. “And Polanski’s a white male, which doesn’t help.” “

As a partial spoiler, one of these fictional judges is appointed to the Supreme Court.

Update: David Lat notes that Judge Stinson does bear some similarities to Judge Sykes.

(One reader of Supreme Ambitions(affiliate link) asked me whether Judge Sykes inspired the character of Judge Stinson. Although there are some similarities — both are fabulous, highly regarded, conservative women judges, talked about as possible SCOTUS nominees — Judge Sykes is way nicer than Judge Stinson, a judicial diva of the first order.)