(KMSP) - President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court Justice nomination is expected to have a major ripple effect that could last the better part of three decades.
And in this competition there’s a real premium on making sure whoever is chosen can get through the confirmation process cleanly.
“This is going to be ferocious political theatre in Washington,” saifd Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “We’ve had courts that have tilted to the left and to the right."
But the announcement about who will replace Justice Anthony Kennedy is set to be a historic Monday night primetime event starting at 9 p.m. EST.
Up to this point the Administration has set the stage to establish a strong conservative Court.
The final four are all, of course, Federal Court Judges who sit on the Court of Appeals:
Judge Raymond Kethledge of Cincinnati’s 6th Circuit
Judge Amy Coney Barrett of Chicago’s 7th Circuit
Judge Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania’s 3rd Circuit
Judge Brett Kavenaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C.
“[President Trump] now had everybody he knows weighing in,” said Jacobs. “We understand some of the folks he plays golf with has offered their views.”
Over the weekend Republican leader Senator Mitch McConnell advised the President both Kethledge and Hardiman present the fewest obstacles. McConnell’s prime concern? Kavenaugh’s long history of decisions and ties to the Bush Administration could raise concerns with conservatives down the line.
“There’s a bit of a battle as to which of these candidates might even bring in one or two Democratic votes,” Jacobs nodded.
Yet what ties Judges Barrett, Hardiman, Kethledge and Kavenaugh is that they each stand on the letter of the law, not what they think that law should be – which means neither are likely swing voters. The likely floater instead could be Chief Justice John Roberts.
“The Chief as it turns out tends to be more pragmatic probably than all of or at least the top four picks Trump is said to be considering,” former SCOTUS law clerk Aaron Van Oort told Fox 9. Now a Minnesota-based litigator, Van Oort served as the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s clerk from 2000-2001.
“[Scalia’s] basic take on this is that if you have judges that are going to make policy decisions, rather than just trying to follow what the law is, you should expect there to be a lot of controversy about the hearing,” he said.
Why Van Oort hopes the knock-out nominee embodies what he believes makes a prime pick – someone who is a great writer, honors precedent and, more importantly, treats all people with respect.
“If they play it straight down the middle that’s really important,” shared Van Oort.
The last thing the Trump Administration wants is a nominee with skeletons in their closet, because scandal could crash the confirmation hearing.
If a nominee can’t win over a closely divided senate, that pick could be in trouble.