Meet Trump’s Top Candidates To Fill Ginsburg’s Seat On The Supreme Court

Washington — A date has been set, a location announced and the path cleared for a vote in the Senate on a new Supreme Court justice this year.

But who will President Trump choose to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday?

The president said Monday he has narrowed his list of possible nominees to five women, and two have emerged as the frontrunners: Judges Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa. The president told Fox News in an interview Monday he was also considering Judge Allison Jones Rushing, but at just 38 years old, she would likely face scrutiny over her age and experience.

Mr. Trump appointed Barrett and Lagoa to the federal bench, and they both boast conservative bona fides. Here is a closer look at two of the women under consideration to be the president’s third Supreme Court pick.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett

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Judge Amy Coney Barrett seen in 2019 in Washington. screen grab via YouTube.com

A mother of seven from Vice President Mike Pence’s home state of Indiana, Barrett, 48, graduated from Notre Dame Law School and served as a law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia.

She returned to South Bend in 2002 as a law professor, where she worked until Mr. Trump nominated Barrett to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017.

A devout Catholic, Barrett became a darling of social conservatives during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, during which she faced questions from its Democratic members about her faith. 

In one exchange that grabbed headlines, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee’s top Democrat, told Barrett “the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.” The comment became a flashpoint in her confirmation process, and the phrase soon adorned mugs with Barrett’s likeness and T-shirts. She was ultimately confirmed by the Senate 55-43.

If selected by Mr. Trump to succeed Ginsbsurg, Barrett’s nomination is likely to ignite the president’s conservative base. But she is expected to face questions in the Senate over her views on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a woman’s right to an abortion.

Two key Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski, support abortion rights, and their votes in favor of the president’s nominee could hinge on whether they deem her hostile to Roe.

Barrett told the Judiciary Committee in 2017 she would “follow all Supreme Court precedent without fail” and during a speech at Notre Dame in 2013 said it’s “very unlikely” the high court would overturn the landmark decision, according to the student newspaper, The Observer.

But in a 2013 Texas Law Review article on Supreme Court precedent, Barrett asked “Does the Court act lawlessly — or at least questionably — when it overrules precedent?” 

“I tend to agree with those who say that a justice’s duty is to the Constitution and that it is thus more legitimate for her to enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks clearly in conflict with it,” she wrote. “That itself serves an important rule-of-law value.”

In her three years on the 7th Circuit, Barrett has authored just over 100 opinions. In June, she wrote a dissent from a divided 7th Circuit panel’s decision upholding a lower court ruling that blocked enforcement of the Trump administration’s so-called “public charge” rule. She also dissented from a panel opinion siding with the government in a Second Amendment case brought by a nonviolent felon who was prohibited under federal and state law from owning a firearm.

Barrett met with Mr. Trump in 2018 after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, but the president ultimately selected Justice Brett Kavanaugh as his nominee. Axios reported last year Mr. Trump said he was “saving” Barrett for Ginsburg’s seat.

A source close to the president said met with the president at the White House on Monday.

Judge Barbara Lagoa

Newly Sworn-In Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Makes Announcement Regarding Florida Supreme Court In Miami
Newly sworn-in Governor Ron DeSantis stands behind Barbara Lagoa as she speaks after he named her to the Florida Supreme Court on January 9, 2019 in Miami, Florida.  Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Lagoa, 52, was born in Miami, Florida, to parents who fled Cuba, and went on to graduate from Columbia University School of Law, as Ginsburg did. 

She worked as a federal prosecutor in Miami for three years before Governor Jeb Bush appointed Lagoa to a state appeals court in 2006, on which she served until Governor Ron DeSantis named Lagoa to the Supreme Court of Florida in January 2019. Lagoa’s appointment to the state supreme court was history-making: She was the first Latina and first Cuban American woman selected for the court.

Months after joining the Florida Supreme Court, Mr. Trump nominated Lagoa to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and she was confirmed by the Senate in a bipartisan 80-15 vote.

Lagoa represented relatives of Elian Gonzalez pro bono during the high-profile custody fight more than a decade ago. Gonzalez, then 5, was rescued off the coast of Florida in 1999 after his mother drowned during their attempt to flee Cuba. He was placed with relatives in Miami, but his father sought to have him sent back to Cuba. Gonzalez returned to Cuba with his dad in June 2000.

Lagoa’s tenure as a state and federal judge spans 14 years, but she has a slim judicial record on politically charged issues like abortion.

In written questions to the Senate Judiciary Committee last year, Lagoa called Roe “settled law” and “binding precedent of the Supreme Court, and I would faithfully follow it as I would follow all precedent of the Supreme Court.” 

Lagoa is likely to face questions for a recent ruling by the 11th Circuit in a major voting rights case in Florida. The appeals court ruled 6-4, with Lagoa joining the majority, that convicted felons in the state must pay all fines, restitution and legal fees before their voting rights are restored.

In July, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee sent Lagoa a letter requesting she explain her involvement in the case. Lagoa participated in an advisory opinion on the issue while serving on the Florida Supreme Court, and the Democrats accused her of violating the judicial code of conduct by not disqualifying herself from the case.

While serving on the state supreme court, Lagoa also authored the court’s opinion siding with DeSantis in a dispute over his suspension of former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel following the 2018 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Fight over SCOTUS vacancy grows 02:05

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