Trump’s Top Five High Court Picks

News: Campaign 2020US News
by Christine Niles  •  •  September 24, 2020   

A brief look at each

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WASHINGTON ( - President Trump has narrowed his list of top Supreme Court picks to five women, promising his nomination by 5 p.m. Saturday.

All of his choices are members of the Federalist Society, an influential legal organization that promotes a textualist and originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. It's made up of conservative and libertarian attorneys, judges, professors, politicians and legal analysts, with multiple chapters in law schools across the nation.

A total of four (two each) have served as law clerks either for the late Justice Antonin Scalia or for Clarence Thomas, both practicing Catholics, who have taken a principled approach to constitutional interpretation.

This will be the president's third High Court nominee. The following is a round-up of his top choices.

Amy Coney Barrett

Considered Trump's frontrunner, the GOP and the president's conservative base have shown the greatest enthusiasm for Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Several House Republicans wrote a letter Wednesday urging Trump to choose her for the High Court bench.

"We are confident that Judge Barrett, if nominated and confirmed to the Supreme Court, will respect and defend the original text of the U.S. Constitution, as intended by America's founding fathers," the letter stated, signed by Reps. Andy Biggs (AZ), Steve King (IA), Jackie Walorski (IN), Jim Banks (IN) and Peter King (NY).

Barrett is known to be a devout Catholic. A mother of seven, with two children adopted from Haiti and one special needs child, she graduated from Notre Dame Law School and went on to serve as a law clerk for Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court. She is considered his ideological heir.

She taught at Notre Dame Law School for 15 years before being nominated to the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017, enduring contentious judicial confirmation hearings that critics say smacked of anti-Catholic bigotry.

The 48-year-old is a member of the charismatic group People of Praise, founded at Notre Dame in 1971, an ecumenical group that consists of Protestants and Catholics known for conservative beliefs.

Barrett has indicated that, while Roe v. Wade may be binding precedent, it is not beyond reversal. She has also criticized Chief Justice John Roberts for being overly creative in his attempt to interpret the law to save Obamacare in 2017.

Barbara Lagoa

Barbara Lagoa, a Catholic, was born in Miami, Florida to immigrants who fled communist Cuba. She graduated from Columbia University School of Law, going on to serve on the Florida Supreme Court in 2019.

It was a shortlived assignment, Trump nominating her to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that same year. She was confirmed in non-controversial proceedings by a vote of 80–15.

"If we are not bound by what the Constitution means and it is ever changing, then we are no different than the country that my parents fled from, which is Cuba," said Lagoa during confirmation hearings. "Because Cuba has a constitution and a bill of rights and it means nothing."

The 52-year-old Latina has expressed gratitude for her parents for instilling in her "an abiding faith in God that has grounded and sustained me through the highs and lows of life."

Republican Rep. Matthew Gaetz, a staunch conservative, has said of Lagoa that she is "very pro-life, reliably pro-life," going on to say, "The hardcore Catholics usually stick with us" and "Her faith guides her perspective on life."

Lagoa was a member of the pro bono legal team that fought for the family of Elian Gonzalez, whose custody case made international headlines in 1999 and 2000. His mother had drowned as she was escaping Cuba to Florida, and his father — backed by Fidel Castro — demanded that he be returned to his native country.

Lagoa's team argued for Gonzalez's right to remain in the United States. He was forcibly removed by federal agents, however, and returned to Cuba.

"She truly believed that this little boy deserved to grow up in freedom, which is what his mother wanted for him," said Raquel Rodriguez, who oversaw Lagoa's seating on Miami's 3rd District Court of Appeal. "It weighs on her to this day."

Lagoa is married to Paul C. Huck, Jr., considered the "godfather of the Federalist Society in Miami," and is mother of three daughters.

Allison Jones Rushing

The youngest of the nominees, 38-year-old Allison Jones Rushing was born in North Carolina in 1982 and graduated from Duke University School of Law.

Rushing served as law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a practicing Catholic who takes a Natural Law approach to constitutional interpretation. She also clerked for Neil Gorsuch before he was confirmed to the High Court.

Rushing was confirmed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2019 by a 53–44 vote.

Rushing has worked for Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian nonprofit that advocates for "religious liberty, the sanctity of human life, freedom of speech and marriage and family." The LGBT activist group Human Rights Campaign and radical leftist Southern Poverty Law Center deem Alliance Defending Freedom a "hate group" that fights against "LGBTQ rights," and have issued a warning against Jones.

Jones has defended the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), saying in a 2013 speech, "[T]he fact that DOMA codified the definition of marriage that had prevailed throughout most of human history ... was evidence that the law did have a valid basis."

Rushing is Protestant. She has been a member of the Federalist Society since 2012. She married in 2016 and is the mother of a young son.

Joan Larsen

Born in Iowa to Lutheran parents, Joan Larsen graduated top of her class from Northwestern University School of Law. Like Barrett, she clerked for Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court, and was among those who spoke at his memorial service in 2016.

She went on to teach at the University of Michigan Law School before serving on the Michigan State Supreme Court in 2015.

She was nominated by Trump to the Sixth Circuit in 2017 and was confirmed by a vote of 60–38.

Larsen volunteered for Joe Biden's campaign in 1987, before he swung towards radical abortion extremism.

As a longtime member of the Federalist Society, she has said of her judicial philosophy, "Judges should interpret the laws according to what they say, not according to what the judges wish they would say."

Elsewhere she has written, "Judges, like everyone else, are bound by those laws and must faithfully interpret them rather than rewriting them from the bench. Judges, after all, are the public's servants, not the public's masters."

The 51-year-old is married to a law professor at Michigan Law School and is mother of two children. They reside in Ann Arbor.

Kate Comerford Todd

Like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Kate Comerford Todd is a graduate of Cornell University. She attended Harvard Law School, where she was executive editor of Harvard Law Review, going on to graduate magna cum laude.

She clerked for Justice Thomas on the Supreme Court. She has served as deputy White House counsel under both Presidents George W. Bush and Trump.

Todd has taught at George Washington University Law School, and has also served as chief counsel for the U.S. Chamber Litigation Center. She is the only nominee who has never served as a judge.

Friends say she is a brilliant and principled jurist. Adam Mortara, a conservative lawyer who has known Todd for two decades, told the Associated Press that Todd has never retreated on an issue of principle.

"I think the first person that I ever met, other than Justice Thomas, who I realized fully embodied that principle is Kate," said Mortara. "I've never seen her back down on an issue of principle. I've never seen her compromise her principles."

"On issues of right or wrong, or on issues of what the law is or isn't, there is no moving her," he added.

While the 45-year-old has never publicly spoken of her religious affiliation, she and her husband married in 2004 at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Great Falls, Virginia. She has four children.


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