President Donald Trump is set to announce his pick for the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, fulfilling a promise he made to social conservatives on the campaign trail to name someone like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative icon whose seat has been vacant for almost a year.
The White House moved up the announcement by two days, a step that observers saw as an attempt to change the subject away from the president’s controversial immigration order. The order has provoked widespread criticism in the U.S. and among allies abroad, not to mention among leading Republicans in Congress.
Whoever the president selects, the confirmation hearings are likely to set up a full-scale attack from Democrats on some of Trump’s immigration policies.
The leading contenders for the nomination are said to be three federal appeals court judges: all very conservative, all relatively young, all millionaires and all nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush.
The two who seem to be at the head of the line are Neil Gorsuch, a well-regarded 49-year-old judge on the appeals court based in Denver, and Thomas Hardiman, a popular 51-year-old judge on the appeals court based in Philadelphia. Hardiman is said to be well-liked by Maryanne Trump Barry, the president’s sister, a judge on the same Philadelphia court.
Gorsuch and Hardiman seem in some ways to be the flip sides of each other: Gorsuch is a scholarly Ivy Leaguer and Hardiman is a longtime litigator with lots of experience trying cases, who is said to have a “practical approach.”
The diplomatic Ivy Leaguer
Gorsuch, a Colorado native, is proof that you can acquire a personality that is diametrically different from your parents. His mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, was a highly controversial, take-no-prisoners head of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Reagan Administration, and known for being quite the bomb thrower.
But lawyers and judges alike describe her son as unfailingly polite, diplomatic, a good listener and a good colleague – to the point of being obsequious.
Gorsuch is a reliable conservative on social issues. His best-known votes are in decisions siding with challenges to regulations requiring employers to provide birth control coverage for women under the Affordable Care Act.
He earned his undergraduate degree at Columbia University, where he co-founded a newspaper aimed at rebutting what he considered the dominant liberal and “politically correct” philosophy on campus. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he also earned a doctorate in legal philosophy at Oxford…