Supreme Court Nominations

Trump reportedly interviewed these judges for the Supreme Court; is Kethledge a co-contender?

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Updated:President Donald Trump reportedly interviewed four federal appeals judges Monday in his search for a replacement for retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

Trump spoke with four judges previously said to be on a five-judge shortlist, according to anonymous sources who spoke with Above the Law, the New York Times, Bloomberg News and the Washington Post.

Each interview lasted about 45 minutes, and there were no questions about specific cases such as Roe v. Wade, according to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The four judges reportedly interviewed were:

• Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Kavanaugh, 53, was formerly a Kennedy clerk, a prosecutor in the investigation by special counsel Ken Starr, an assistant and staff secretary to former President George W. Bush, and a former partner at Kirkland & Ellis. He wrote a law review article in 2009 saying impeachment rather than indictment is the best way to deal with a president who “does something dastardly,” the National Law Journal recently reported. He said trying a president while in office would raise a “serious constitutional question.” More recently, Kavanaugh wrote a dissent contending that massive power given to the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was unconstitutional.

• Judge Amy Coney Barrett, 46, of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Barrett was confirmed to the 7th Circuit on Oct. 31. She is a former Notre Dame law professor who had clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia. During her confirmation hearings, she came under fire for an article calling Roe v. Wade an “erroneous decision.”

• Judge Amul Thapar. 49, of the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Thapar, a South Asian American, was a federal judge in Kentucky before Trump nominated him to the 6th Circuit.

• Judge Raymond Kethledge, 51, of the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Kethledge is a former Kennedy clerk and a former in-house lawyer at Ford Motor Co. In one decision on behalf of a tea party group, he won conservative plaudits for refusing to interfere with a federal judge’s order that the IRS disclose lists of groups allegedly targeted because of their political beliefs.

Judge Thomas Hardiman, 52, of the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is also said to be under consideration.

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and White House spokesman Raj Shah later confirmed to the Deseret News that Trump interviewed Lee on Monday about the court vacancy.

Shah told the Wall Street Journal that Trump also spoke with three potential nominees Tuesday.

Trump previously said he is considering two women in his nominee search. Above the Law says the other woman is Judge Joan Larsen, 49, of the 6th Circuit. Larsen is a former clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia, according to previous reporting by NBC.

David Lat of Above the Law, which broke the news about the four judges interviewed, is predicting that the nominee will be Kavanaugh or Kethledge. Anonymous sources told Bloomberg that Kethledge has impressed people in the White House, and Trump reportedly expressed strong favorable opinions of him.

Lat says age 55 is widely seen as a “sell by” date for Supreme Court nominees, especially for Republicans who prize youth. Younger judges such as Barrett, Larsen and Thapar could be saved for future possible nominations, Lat says. In addition, Thapar would be the first South Asian American on the court and could be a good pick if Justice Clarence Thomas retires.

Hardiman, a Georgetown law graduate, might be seen as not elite enough given the president’s favor for brand names, Lat says.

Weighing in favor of Kavanaugh and Kethledge is that they both clerked for Kennedy. In addition, Kethledge is “impossible not to like,” Lat says. His important rulings will please conservatives but don’t contain much that could become a conservative talking point, Lat adds.

Updated July 5 to note reports of additional interviews.

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