Jeff Dobbins, associate professor at Willamette Law, discussed President Trump’s potential nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s “Think Out Loud” segment Wednesday. Dobbins and Lisa McElroy, associate professor at Drexel University School of Law, spoke about the four people whose names have been floated around as Trump’s short list: William Pryor, 54, Diane Sykes, 59, Neil Gorsuch, 49, and Thomas Hardiman, 51.
All of the judges are considered conservatives and were named to their current positions by President George W. Bush. President Trump said that he will announce his nominee next Tuesday, Jan. 31.
In discussing the short list, Dobbins and McElroy agreed that Pryor’s chances seem to be fading amidst questions of how conservative he is. Dobbins said in a lot of ways, Gorsuch is the most traditional and might fit into the existing mold of the Supreme Court in the most straightforward way.
“One of the things that struck me about some of his opinions that I had a chance to look at is that in a lot of ways, he’s already thinking a little bit like a Supreme Court justice, which is unusual for Court of Appeals judges,” Dobbins said, “because he is often seeming to push the boundaries of existing law rather than simply marching in lockstep.
“He often says ‘Here’s how we should really be thinking about this,’ which is of course the sort of thing that we often saw from Justice Scalia.”
Dobbins said to remember that this nominee will be replacing Justice Antonin Scalia, considered a conservative on the Court, so it won’t necessarily sway the liberal to conservative ratio. He said the Senate’s decision to not hold a confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland, former President Obama’s nominee, was unusual. Scalia died nearly a year ago in February.
Of the other possible nominees, McElroy said Sykes may no longer be in contention due to her age. Dobbins said it wasn’t particularly clear to him why Hardiman had come to the top of the list. However, he said Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, is on the same circuit court as Hardiman and may have communicated with her brother that he could be a good choice.
Dobbins said issues of religion, class actions and Second Amendment considerations regarding gun rights are what the newest member of the court will face. McElroy said that while Republicans are thrilled they delayed Garland’s hearing, Democrats will likely try to stall the confirmation for Trump’s nominee until April, when oral arguments will be finished for this term.
“I think we’re going to see a very large turnover in the next four years, and unless the Senate flips, I don’t think that there’s going to be a whole lot that the Democrats can do,” McElroy said.
Dobbins agreed and said a number of things will turn with the outcome of this nomination.
“I think that the likelihood of significant change is probably quite different now than it would have been if Garland had been confirmed or if we had a Clinton presidency rather than a Trump one,” he said.
About Willamette University College of Law
Opened in 1883, Willamette University College of Law is the first law school in the Pacific Northwest. The college has a long tradition at the forefront of legal education and is committed to the advancement of knowledge through excellent teaching, scholarship and mentorship. Leading faculty, thriving externship and clinical law programs, ample practical skills courses and a proactive career placement office prepare Willamette law students for today's legal job market. According to statistics compiled by the American Bar Association, Willamette ranks first in the Pacific Northwest for job placement for full-time, long-term, JD-preferred/JD-required jobs for the class of 2014 and first in Oregon for the classes of 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. Located across the street from the state capitol complex and the Oregon Supreme Court, the college specializes in law and government, law and business, and dispute resolution.