Grading Potential SCOTUS Nominees

A Brief Synopsis for each of the Potential SCOTUS Picks

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As soon as Justice Kennedy announced his retirement, all eyes fell on President Donald Trump.  

Speculation arose concerning the future nominee; would this future justice hold true to the constitution and the principles of originalism, or take the path of the countless Republican-nominated justices’ that have instead taken up the activist post.  

President Trump has already proven he has the capability of nominating sound justices such as Neil Gorsuch in 2016, but this time around it will go to show if he can consistently nominate originalists, unlike his Republican predecessors.

Luckily, the President has a clear shortlist of potential nominees for the American people to individually evaluate their potential as future court justices’.

The Top Three


Amy Coney Barrett
Final GradeB+
Highest PotentialClarence Thomas
Lowest PotentialDavid Souter
Pre-Judicial OccupationLawyer (private practice), Law Professor
Judicial Experience1 year
Current Position7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Senate HistoryConfirmed 55-43 (2017)
Clerked forJustice Scalia
OverviewNominating Barrett to the supreme court can go both very well or very poorly for Republicans.  On one hand, Barrett holds a strong religious affiliation with Catholicism, an affiliation that has been shown that has and will invoke distaste and subsequently alienate Senate Democrats.  Additionally, Barrett will be returning to the same Senate that confirmed her 55-43 just last year. However, due to her lack of experience, it is very possible she can become an unreliable vote, much like Justice Souter.  That being said, Barrett’s strong Catholicism offers a great amount of reassurance in the eyes of Republicans because, hopefully, it will ground her in her principles on the high court.


Brett Kavanaugh
Final GradeB
Highest PotentialWilliam Rehnquist
Lowest PotentialAnthony Kennedy
Pre-Judicial OccupationWhite House Staff Secretary
Judicial Experience12 years
Current PositionDC Court of Appeals
Senate HistoryConfirmed 57-36 (2006)
Clerked forJustice Kennedy
OverviewKavanaugh has a very mixed conservative record.  The potential justice started as a staffer in the Bush White House and was nominated by Bush to the DC Court of Appeals.  As a judge in DC, Kavanaugh had the privilege of ruling on many important, telling cases. On one hand, Kavanaugh has aligned himself strongly on guns and immigration as he has written on the unconstitutionality of gun registrations and the importance of a heavily-mandated border.  However, Kavanaugh has also garnered heat from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for his work under President Bush and his affirmation of the constitutionality of Obamacare.


Raymond Kethledge
Final GradeC-
Highest PotentialJohn Roberts
Lowest PotentialJohn Paul Stevens
Pre-Judicial OccupationLawyer (Ford Motor Companies)
Judicial Experience10 years
Current PositionSixth Circuit Court of Appeals
Senate HistoryVoice Vote Confirmation (2008)
Clerked forJustice Kennedy
OverviewA Kethledge nomination would show a lack of care on the part of President Trump and those around him.  While Kethledge is no activist, at least not yet, he is far from a Neil Gorsuch. Kethledge has a low ceiling and an even lower floor.  A study comparing all of Trump’s shortlist candidates to the late Justice Scalia shows Kethledge to the in the back of the pack. Additionally, Kethledge has been ripped by conservative commentator Ann Coulter for being an “open borders zealot.”  A Justice Kethledge would serve to be a slightly reliable conservative at best and a turncoat activist at worst. While surrounded by much better candidates around him, why would one choose Kethledge?


Other Notables

Thomas Hardiman
Final GradeA
Highest PotentialNeil Gorsuch
Lowest PotentialJohn Roberts
Pre-Judicial OccupationTaxi driver, lawyer (private practice)
Judicial Experience15 years
Current PositionThird Circuit Court of Appeals
Senate HistoryVoice Vote Confirmation (2003), 95-0 Confirmation (2007)
Clerked forn/a
OverviewHardiman has an excellent record as a judge.  In Busch vs. Marple Newton (2008), Hardiman dissented in favor of a kindergarten student who had been barred from bringing his bible to show-and-tell.  In Drake vs. Filko (2013), Hardiman dissented against a New Jersey law that required gun owners to provide “justifiable need” to carry a handgun. In Cazun vs. Attorney General (2017), Hardiman concurred that aliens subject to deportation cannot file for asylum.  Hardiman’s record is extraordinary and should give him a higher consideration.


Amul Thapar
Final GradeC
Highest PotentialClarence Thomas
Lowest PotentialHarry Blackmun
Pre-Judicial OccupationUS Attorney (Kentucky)
Judicial Experience10 years
Current PositionSixth Circuit Court of Appeals
Senate HistoryVoice Vote Confirmation (2008)
Clerked forn/a
OverviewDespite having 10 years of judicial experience, Thapar has not decided many telling cases.  He does, however, have a well-document stance in line with the war on drugs and has a line of foot-in-his-mouth statements.


Joan Larsen
Final GradeC+
Highest PotentialSamuel Alito
Lowest PotentialSandra Day O’Connor
Pre-Judicial OccupationUS Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Judicial Experience3 years
Current PositionSixth Circuit Court of Appeals
Senate History60-38 Confirmation (2017)
Clerked forJustice Scalia
OverviewLarsen has a very limited experience and therefore is difficult to trust with such a high responsibility.  At a young 49, Larsen could serve for nearly a half-century, but that blessing could be a curse if her lack of record serves to backfire.


Mike Lee
Final GradeA-
Highest PotentialAntonin Scalia
Lowest PotentialJohn Roberts
Pre-Judicial Occupationn/a
Judicial Experience0 years
Current PositionUS Senator (R-UT)
Senate Historyn/a
Clerked forJustice Alito
OverviewLee is the wildcard on this shortlist.  Lee is among the younger end of the bunch at 47 and has no judicial experience outside of decade-and-half-long legal career and a few brief clerkships.  Despite this, Lee’s reputation as a staunch conservative and support from fellow senators like Ted Cruz (R-TX) show that he can be a truly great justice.

Jesse Edberg

Jesse Edberg is a student at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Maryland class of 2020. He is the proud descendant of three US Army veterans and three Treblinka rioteers. Edberg is also a Student Ambassador to Prager University.

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