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Two women have emerged as the frontrunners on President Donald Trump’s shortlist to replace Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who succumbed to metastatic pancreatic cancer on Friday.
The pair — Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa — are both accomplished jurists with positive stories to tell. What’s more, at 48 and 52, respectively, both could theoretically serve for decades to come, potentially solidifying Trump’s judicial legacy as the president who reintroduced constitutional originalism to the nation’s highest court.
On Saturday, the president dropped the names of Barrett and Lagoa ahead of announcing that his next high court pick, which will be his third, will be a woman at a campaign rally in North Carolina.
“I will be putting forth a nominee this week, it will be a woman,” Trump said, adding that she will be a very “very talented, very brilliant woman” because “I like women more than I like men.”
In all, there are five women on the president’s shortlist of 20 names, the Daily Mail reports: Kate Todd, deputy White House counsel; Sarah Pitlyk, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri; Allison Jones Rushing, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit; Martha Pacold, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois; and Bridget Bade, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
— Barrett: Currently serving as a U.S. district court judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, she is known as both reliably religious and conservative, Politico notes, adding that if she is appointed, she will become the high court’s youngest member.
What’s more, Politico notes, Barrett is a “protege” of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, having clerked for him after graduating from Notre Dame University Law School. In a 2013 Texas Law Review article, Barrett noted her strict constitutionalism — that is, making rulings based on the language and the founders’ original intent behind the Constitution’s language. The article says that she would “enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks is clearly in conflict with it.”
During her confirmation hearing about three years ago, she engaged in a testy exchange with Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The long-serving California Democrat appeared to question Barrett’s religious beliefs.
“The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that people have fought for years in this country,” Feinstein said, likely a reference to Barrett’s traditional Catholic views on abortion.
“It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they arise from faith or anywhere else, on the law,” Barrett — who taught constitutional law at her alma mater for about 20 years before being named to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals — fired back.
She has also been criticized for her association with a religious group People of Praise, in which members swear a lifelong commitment to each other called a “covenant.” Also, they are assigned and are accountable to a personal advisor to which they are “encouraged to confess personal sins, financial information and other sensitive disclosures to these advisors and advisors are allowed to report these admissions to group leadership if necessary,” the Daily Mail notes.
“She’s very highly respected, I can say that,” the president has said of Barrett.
— Lagoa: A Florida native whose parents fled the late Communist dictator Fidel Castro’s Cuba some 50 years ago, Lagoa was recently vetted to serve on 11th Circuit Court of Appeals just last year, getting bipartisan support, which could ease her patch to the SCOTUS, where she would become the second Latino woman to serve after Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
She also has a substantial legal background, Politico notes. After she graduated from Columbia Law School, she worked for a time pro bono for the family of Elian Gonzalez, who became embroiled in an international custody battle between Cuba and the U.S. in 2000. Later, she became a federal prosecutor and then served for 10 years as a judge on a Florida appeals court. Gov. Ron DeSantis then picked her to serve on the Florida Supreme Court.
“She’s an extraordinary person. I’ve heard at length about her. She’s Hispanic and highly respected — Miami. Highly respected,” Trump has said of Lagoa, who would also become the youngest member of the high court if confirmed.
If she becomes the nominee, it could help President Trump win Florida, a crucial swing state.
In a ruling last week, she sided with the majority in barring hundreds of thousands of former felons from voting in November if they failed to first pay fees and fines owed to the state.
“Florida’s felon re-enfranchisement scheme is constitutional,” she wrote. “It falls to the citizens of the state of Florida and their elected state legislators, not to federal judges, to make any additional changes to it.”
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