Here Are Top 5 Possible Trump Supreme Court Nominees (and 3 Dark Horses)

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Here Are the Top 5 Possible Trump Supreme Court Nominees (and 3 Dark Horses)

The list originally included a former journalist, sitting U.S. senator, and appeals court judge who ruled against the IRS's Tea Party targeting

Update: With the announcement only hours away, some think President Donald Trump leans toward Judge Raymond Kethledge; others, to Judge Amy Coney Barrett (read their biographies, below). The president shares his choice tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern.

Five names from President Donald Trump’s list of 25 top candidates for Supreme Court nominations appear to be the strongest contenders for the nod to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. The new nominee will follow Trump’s first Supreme Court pick, Justice Neil Gorsuch (picture left above) who was confirmed in 2017.

Here, ranked in no particular order, are the five:

1.) Thomas Hardiman. Appointed to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2007 by President George W. Bush, Hardiman has drawn the ire of the Alliance for Justice, a liberal advocacy group that frequently attacks conservative and Republican federal court nominees. The group accuses Hardiman of having too broad a view of citizens’ Second Amendment rights.

Hardiman was born and raised in Massachusetts and graduated with honors from the Georgetown School Law Center in 1990. “Following graduation, Judge Hardiman joined the Washington, D.C., office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom as an associate in the litigation group. In 1992 he moved to Pittsburgh and joined the firm of Cindrich & Titus, later known as Titus & McConomy LLP, as an associate. In 1996, he was elected partner at the age of 30. In 1999, Judge Hardiman joined Reed Smith LLP as a partner in the litigation department until he took the bench on November 1, 2003,” according to The Federalist Society.

2.) Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh was appointed by Bush in 2006 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. That court often hears high-profile public policy cases, a fact that has helped raise Kavanaugh’s public profile.

“Before his appointment to the court, Judge Kavanaugh served for more than five years in the White House for President George W. Bush. From July 2003 until May 2006, he was assistant to the president and staff secretary to the president. From 2001 to 2003, he was associate counsel and then senior associate counsel to the president,” according to The Federalist Society.

3.) Amy Coney Barrett. President Donald Trump nominated and the Senate confirmed Barrett as a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017. Her confirmation process was marred by Democratic critics who claimed she was not fit for a federal judgeship because of her Catholic faith.

“Before joining the bench, she served as a professor at the Notre Dame Law School, where she specialized in constitutional law and federal courts. After receiving her J.D. from the Notre Dame Law School, she clerked for Judge Laurence Silberman on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and for Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court,” the Federalist Society said.

4.) Amul Thapar. After first being appointed by Bush as a U.S. District Court judge in 2007, Thapar was elevated by Trump in 2017 to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Thapar is the first person of Southeast Asian heritage to be appointed to the federal bench.

“Before becoming a judge, Judge Thapar served as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. While U.S. attorney, Judge Thapar was appointed to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC) and chaired the AGAC’s Controlled Substances and Asset Forfeiture subcommittee. He also served on the Terrorism and National Security subcommittee, the Violent Crime subcommittee, and Child Exploitation working group,” the Federalist Society reported.

5.) Raymond Kethledge. Kethledge’s highest profile case was his ruling against the Internal Revenue Service in the Tea Party targeting scandal.

He said in a unanimous decision for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals: “The lawyers in the Department of Justice have a long and storied tradition of defending the nation’s interests and enforcing its laws — all of them, not just selective ones — in a manner worthy of the department’s name. The conduct of the IRS’ attorneys in the district court falls outside that tradition. We expect that the IRS will do better going forward.”

Three potential dark horse candidates include the brothers Lee, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Thomas Lee of that state’s supreme court. (Their father, Rex Lee, was solicitor general under President Ronald Reagan.) Judge Diane Sykes of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals would be the Supreme Court’s first former journalist if she were nominated and confirmed.

Senior editor Mark Tapscott can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

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Mark Tapscott manages LifeZette's political coverage. He is an elected member of the First Amendment Center's Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame and is a former CPAC Conservative Journalist of the Year.