As speculation swirls around who President Trump will appoint as his third Supreme Court justice, political analysts have focused on the two contenders. Indiana appellate judge Amy Corny Barrett and Florida federal appellate judge Barbara Ragoa.
Trump said Monday that he may have five appointees in mind for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat by Friday or Saturday as nominees.
But since Trump has also said he plans to pick a woman to replace Ginsburg, the second woman ever appointed to the high court, a number of conservative female judges are at the top of the president’s rumored shortlist – though a male judge backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could also be on it.
Here are five potential Supreme Court nominees and how they could influence the November presidential election.
Most of them are women. Analysts, including Height Capital Markets, have zeroed in on a group of conservative women as potential candidates, including Barrett and Ragoa, as well as White House deputy counsel Kate Todd and North Carolina federal judge Alison Jones Racine.
There are some forces at work here. First, Ginsburg is an equal rights advocate, and there are only four women serving on the Supreme Court. If Trump appoints a woman, as he says he will, she will be the fifth woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court; there are currently two. Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. According to Trump’s polling data, his support among women, especially those in the suburbs, is weak.
The top two contenders appear to be Barrett, who spent nearly two decades as a law professor at the University of Notre Dame before serving on the Indiana Seventh Circuit, and Lagoa, a Miami native and Columbia Law School graduate who served as a pro bono attorney for the family of Elian Gonzalez during the international custody battle in 2000 when the 5-year-old Cuban boy was found floating in Florida Coast. Barrett was also on Trump’s short list after the Brett Kavanaugh hearings two years ago; Axios reported that he said at the time, “I’ll leave her to Ginsburg.” But Lagoa, while largely unknown in D.C., has the backing of Florida Republicans like Senator Marco Rubio, Representative Matt Gaetz and Governor Ron DeSantis – and Florida will be a key state in deciding the November election.
Lagoa could help Trump win votes in Florida. Lagoa is the first Hispanic woman to serve on the Florida Supreme Court, and she is Cuban-American and a native Floridian. analysts at Capital Alpha Partners wrote that choosing Lagoa could “upend the presidential election” because appointing her to the Supreme Court could mobilize Florida’s Hispanic community to support Trump, not to mention Hispanic voters nationwide now. Meanwhile, Biden is polling behind Hillary Clinton among Hispanic voters where she was at this point in 2016, hitting one of the Democratic candidate’s weaknesses. More importantly, Lagoa would be a historic choice: only the second Latino justice to serve on the Supreme Court, after Obama-era nominee Sotomayor.” The president wants a conservative jurist, and he wants to win the biggest battleground. How can Senate Democrats vote against a Latino?” A Republican source told Politico.
They are fairly young conservatives who could have a lasting impact. Barrett is 48, Lagoa is 52, and Racine is 38 – which would make any of them the youngest justices currently on the Supreme Court. That means that whichever one is chosen could be ruling on landmark cases within a generation, if not longer. And the opinions they issue cater to Trump’s base. Barrett, a devout Catholic, has said that “life begins at conception” and that justices should not be bound by Supreme Court precedent, according to Notre Dame magazine. Liberals have interpreted this as her likely vote to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion. Lagoa served only one year at the federal level, so she doesn’t have that much of a record to review. But she did join an important ruling upholding a law requiring felony convicts to pay all court costs, fines and restitution until they regain the right to vote, and Rushing has worked with Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian nonprofit called “anti-LGBTQ” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Many of them have clerked for conservative Supreme Court justices. Barrett, who clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia in the late 1990s, is considered a Scalia-esque textualist who believes that laws should be interpreted according to the ordinary meaning of the legal text, not according to non-textual sources such as the intent of the law. Racine clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during the 2010-11 term and for current Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch before he joined the high court, and Todd clerked for Thomas during the 2000-01 term.
Amul Thapar could be a contender as well. While Trump has said he would choose a woman, he’s also known for changing his mind, and Thapar is one of four finalists to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy when he retires in 2018. Thapar, 51, is a conservative who serves on Kentucky’s Sixth Circuit Court and would be the first Asian-American on the Supreme Court. Senator McConnell, who recommended him for a district judge and appeals court, is also a favorite of the Federalist Society, a conservative group that believes the Constitution should be interpreted as it is written. Although he hasn’t written about abortion, his father told the Courier-Journal in 2018 that Thapar “would barely talk to me” after I voted for Barack Obama. Then again, Thapar had also objected to “politicians in robes” putting their personal views before the law, writing that the three branches of government should “stay in their lanes.”