On Donald Trump’s Potential Nominees to the Supreme Court

May 18th, 2016

The Trump Campaign has released eleven possible nominees to the Supreme Court. From the federal courts of appeals, he has proposed Steven Colloton (CA8), Raymond Gruender (CA8),  Thomas Hardiman (CA3),  Raymond Kethledge (CA6), William Pryor (CA11), Diane Sykes (CA7), From the state Supreme Courts, he has nominated Allison Eid (Colorado),  Joan Larsen (Michigan), Thomas Lee (Utah), David Stras (Minnesota), and @JusticeWillett (Texas).

This list impresses me for three reasons. First, five of the jurists come from the state court system. We have not had a Justice appointed from a state court since Ronald Reagan plucked Sandra Day O’Connor from the Arizona Court of Appeals. Appointing jurists from the states will implicitly reinforce the importance of federalism–and that the federal Constitution is not the end-all, be-all of laws. Second, the nominees also embody a deep respect for originalism, which was the jurisprudential theory that Justice Scalia taught to a generation of attorneys and judges. Judge Sykes ruled in an important gun case, where she undertook an effort to understand and apply the original understanding of the Second Amendment. Third, he has selected jurists who have evinced a commitment to judicial engagement, and not a rote application of judicial deference. For example, Justice Willett of Texas has written a rigorous and intellectually rich discussion of judicial protection of economic liberty. I still harbor serious doubts about Mr. Trump’s views on constitutional law, but his advisers have served him well here. I hope he stays true to these nominees, and does not subject the judicial selection process to a terrific deal.