Tonight President Donald Trump is expected to announce his pick to replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. It’s likely to be a performance that showcases Trump’s love of reality TV stagecraft, culminating in the reveal of a nominee carefully vetted by conservative jurists and consultants. The San Francisco Chronicle reports the Kennedy replacement project, like the one before it, was “outsourced.” Several news outlets also report a side-vetting process which cut out the president until showtime.
Soon the PR machine will be spinning and the race will be on to get the nomination past the Senate before the midterm elections – or try to delay until the “blue wave” that Democrats are hoping for on election day.
Emily Berman, an assistant professor at the University of Houston School of Law, says that since the Reagan administration, conservative groups including the Federalist Society have strategized to place more conservative judges throughout the judiciary.
“Supreme Court nominations are a result of election results and I think it was pretty clear in this most recent election that one of the tradeoffs that President Trump made in order to gain the support of some sectors of the conservative movement, social conservatives in particular, was sort of a pledge that he was going to nominate justices that they approved of,” she says. “And in order to get that list, the Federalist Society is happy to provide it to him.”
Meanwhile, the American Bar Association is seen, at least by conservative, as providing more left-leaning guidance.
“They tend to rank them according to qualifications,” Berman says. “So they’re less concerned with sort of ideological purity and more focused on, is this someone who has the credentials and the ability to do this very difficult, very important job?”
Berman says to expect a nominee with solid conservative credentials.
“I think it’s more a question then of who does Donald Trump prefer?” she says. “Does he want to go for a woman? Does he want to go for someone who might be an easier confirmation process? And that’s something obviously we won’t know until tonight.”
Written by Jen Rice.