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Who’s on Donald Trump’s Shortlist to Destroy the Supreme Court?

Donald Trump smirks against a black background.

Donald Trump released his shortlist for Supreme Court nominees a few weeks ago, and the once-hypothetical grouping of ultra-conservatives is now set to be our reality in the very near future. Despite the glaring hypocrisy involved, key Senate Republicans have vowed to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat before the election that’s just 40+ days away.

So who exactly is on Trump’s shortlist? As NPR noted at the time of its release, it’s much more political than Trump’s lists from previous years. Three sitting senators are there: Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, and Ted Cruz. All three of those hardcore conservatives have expressed interest in running for president, though, so they’re not likely to accept a lifetime appointment elsewhere.

There are also a lot of sitting judges on the list, many of whom were appointed by Trump and quite a few that have nowhere near the years of experience you’d expect for a SCOTUS nominee, though they check other boxes important to Trump, like sycophancy and a dedication to rightwing ideology.

James Ho, for example, has been serving on the fifth circuit court of appeals for only two and a half years and he hates abortion and the affordable care act. Kyle Duncan, also in the fifth circuit court, is anti-trans rights, anti-LGBTQ rights, anti-abortion, and anti-voting rights.

There are plenty more names like those but Trump has declared that he plans to nominate a woman, of which there are 12 on the list.

Here’s who’s being talked about as the frontrunners. Any one of them would be the youngest Justice on the current Supreme Court, giving them decades of influence.

Barbara Lagoa

Lagoa is a Miami-born Cuban-American judge whom Trump appointed to the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals last December. Trump has been looking for a leg up in Florida, a swing state, and that makes Lagoa a big contender, as Trump himself has said.

Here’s what he told Fox News Monday: “She’s excellent. She’s Hispanic. She’s a terrific woman from everything I know. I don’t know her. Florida. We love Florida.” Neat.

Lagoa is a strict constitutional originalist–believing that the U.S. Constitution does not evolve as our society changes. During her Senate confirmation hearing last year, she said she was committed to maintaining Roe v. Wade as “settled law,” which we’ve heard from other judges who don’t actually mean that at all (*cough Kavanaugh cough*) but it’s something.

Kate Todd

Todd has never served as a judge, but she is the deputy assistant to the president and deputy counsel to the president. She was a law clerk with Justice Clarence Thomas.

Bridget Bade

Bade is on the  U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The Alliance for Justice writes of her record:

Since her appointment to the Ninth Circuit, she has joined other Trump judges to fight civil rights and protections for workers and immigrants. She would have upheld a district court ruling that a low-income Walmart employee should pay the company’s legal expenses arising from his age discrimination lawsuit. Bade also dissented from a decision requiring the Bureau of Immigration Appeals to reconsider a Vietnamese asylum-seeker’s testimony about her alleged abuse and sexual assault.

Amy Coney Barrett

Barrett, also a staunch originalist, is generally considered to be the frontrunner on the list and is also probably the most terrifying. She was on Trump’s shortlist back in 2018 but he crudely said at the time that he was “saving her for Ginsburg.”

Barrett is extremely Catholic and vehemently opposed to abortion. She also doesn’t believe in keeping her religious views separate from her legal career. She once called herself a “different kind of lawyer” and said that a “legal career is but a means to an end … and that end is building the Kingdom of God.”

Some are saying right now that Barrett said she would recuse herself from cases related to abortion and other issues tied to Catholicism. That seems to be based on a paper she once co-wrote, which was scrutinized during her 2017 Senate confirmation hearing for her appointment to the 7th Circuit, and the actual conclusion of that paper was that Catholic judges could recuse themselves from cases involving the death penalty or else obey the tenets of their religion. (During that hearing, Sen. Dianne Feinstein told her, “The dogma lives loudly in you.”)

Barrett and her husband are also members of a Catholic parachurch group called the People of Praise, which is the brand of organization that reportedly inspired Margaret Atwood to write The Handmaid’s Tale. In fact, People of Praise actually used the term handmaid (and “head” for men) to refer to personal advisers within the group until the popularity of the Hulu show drove them to change their creepy terminology.

Here’s how Newsweek describes Barrett’s organization:

The charismatic Christian parachurch organization, which was founded in South Bend, Indiana in 1971, teaches that men have authority over their wives. Members swear a lifelong oath of loyalty to one another and are expected to donate at least 5 per cent of their earnings to the group.

Trump has said he plans to announce his nominee Friday or Saturday of this week, Mitch McConnell has said he plans to rush a vote through, and there’s talk that the Senate might even skip the whole hearing process entirely. Not exactly a win for Democracy.

(image: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.