Trump’s Top Supreme Court Contender Might No Longer Be Who Everybody Thought It Was
That’s because the election’s so close, and all the President cares about is winning at all costs…
Update: Looks like no surprises after all…
Meet Federal Circuit Court Judge Barbara Lagoa, who has served on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Atlanta, since Trump appointed her there less than a year ago. Before that, she was a Florida State Supreme Court Justice, also for less than a year. The lack of time in both those positions might seem to be disqualifying, at least for the time being. Although these aren’t normal times, and this isn’t a normal President. Before her most recent brief stints, Lagoa was on the Court of Appeal of Florida for 13 years.
We’re not going to try to handicap the President’s next Supreme Court pick, which he promises by the end of the week, even though we have in the past. We called Justice Gorsuch, when he was just one of many names on a list. But that was “early Trump”, when he really didn’t know anybody and often made final decisions based on who best looked the part.
Also, none of this may matter much at all, since either way it means a 6–3 ultra-Conservative bias on the Court probably for years, probably very soon. Especially since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems to be indicating he’ll push ahead to confirm before the November 3rd presidential election. And he may try to skip the customary hearings, arguing any candidate’s already been through hearings when they were nominated to a circuit or district court.
So we’ll just point out from a purely political perspective, Judge Lagoa potentially packs a much bigger punch for Trump politically than any of the other women on his list of potential Supreme Court nominees. And he’s pledged to pick a woman.
For a bunch of reasons:
• Trump absolutely needs to win Florida. Lagoa is from Florida. Trump has been pulling out all the stops to appeal to Hispanic voters there and in other states he may need to win. Lagoa is the daughter of Cuban exiles.
Just yesterday, we pointed out that Trump has appointed a higher percentage of White judges than any President since Reagan. Well, according to The Vetting Room, Lagoa is the only Hispanic nominee to a Court of Appeals made by President Trump. You know, the same President Trump who goes around bragging on how many judges he’s nominated.
Trump’s even gone so far in his pandering in Florida to free up $13-billion in federal aid for Puerto Rico just a couple of days ago, and declaring himself “the best thing that every happened” to Puerto Rico, after giving the U.S. territory the cold shoulder for almost the entirely of the 1,098 days since it was devastated by multiple hurricanes in 2017. Except for his infamous visit when he tossed paper towels to a crowd. Lots of Puerto Rican people moved to Florida after the hurricanes, and while residents of Puerto Rico don’t get to vote for President, if they’re residents of Florida now, they do. So Trump had to do something. And he did: a total 180.
• Judge Lagoa checks an important box for Trump: she did her law degree at at an Ivy League. In her case, Columbia. For some reason, Trump thinks that automatically puts his selections beyond reproach. Although he still prefers Harvard or Yale.
• Trump likes to do the element of surprise whenever possible. It makes for better TV. And gains his nominee even more attention.
One could almost look at Trump’s ultimate choice for the Court seat at this point as a second running mate, because coming this close to the election, they’ll very much be on the ballot. Not officially, obviously. And probably approved by the Republican-controlled Senate even if Trump does not himself prevail.
No way the clear front runner til now: Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the 7th Circuit is out of the running. In fact, she was the first candidate the President met following Justice Ginsburg’s death. She visited him at the White House Monday. And we keep hearing Trump’s been saying he was “saving” Barrett for Ginsburg’s seat.
Barrett, because of her background as a law professor, might be more of a proven far-Right ideologue and therefore may still be the strong preference of the ideologues who will be helping Trump come to his decision. And they’ve certainly got pressure they can bring to bear on the President as well, and can also argue she’d even more reliably bring out the evangelical vote. Although, Trump has previously noted Barrett went to law school at Notre Dame; no Ivy League, for what that’s worth…
And it’s hard to argue with the fact that Trump almost must win Florida, and a nominee from there will play better there than someone from Indiana.
Actually, Trump has quite a few women on his list of possible Supreme Court nominees, and he added even more a couple of weeks ago.
They include: Bridget Bade of the 9th Circuit. Also an interesting candidate because she’s from Arizona, which Trump also kind of has to win, though not as much as Florida. As well as: Britt Grant, who sits with Lagoa on the 11th Circuit. Joan Larsen on the 6th Circuit, District Court Judges Martha Pacold, and Sarah Pitlyk, the 4th Circuit’s Allison Jones Rushing, who appears to be the youngest of the group: in her 30s, Margaret Ryan, of the Armed Forces Court of Appeals, Diane Sykes of the 7th Circuit, and Deputy White House Counsel Kate Todd, We’ve linked to bios of all.
Quite a bit of Ivy League on that list. Also, University of Chicago School of Law, which is a badge these days of ultra-Conservative bona fides.
So, we’re still not predicting a thing. Barrett’s still the clear favorite if you’re defining that as who can probably best advance the goals of those who have long been prioritizing transforming the court, and doing the most damage to those who might hope for social change and progress. Or even just keeping hard fought and long held rulings like Roe v. Wade as they are. Not to mention a whole bunch of other stuff involving separation of church and state, environmental regulation, voting rights, health care, social safety net, and much more. At the same time, when it comes down to it, we can see the Florida connection for Trump just possibly becoming a little too tempting.