The Corner

Politics & Policy

Trump’s Judicial Appoints List Is Filled with Outstanding Conservatives

I still don’t believe Trump is a conservative on domestic policy or responsible enough to lead our nation’s foreign policy. But he may be starting to unify the party with the right moves — if his list of potential appointments to the Supreme Court is any sign.

Everyone on the list is an outstanding legal conservative. All are young, smart, and committed. They would excel in any comparison with anyone whom Hillary Clinton would appoint to the Supreme Court. Several of the possibilities, such as Tom Lee of Utah, Allison Eid of Colorado, and David Stras of Minnesota, are former law clerks of Justice Clarence Thomas, while others, such as Steve Colloton of Iowa and Joan Larsen of Michigan, clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia. They are joined by other well-known judicial conservatives, such as Diane Sykes, Don Willet, Ray Kethledge, and Bill Pryor.

These names are a Federalist Society all-star list of conservative jurisprudence. In the interest of full disclosure, I will note that I count several of them as colleagues and friends. It is a good sign that, on one of a president’s most important decisions, Trump clearly turned to the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation for advice.

Interestingly, despite his anti-Bush rhetoric, Trump also owes a debt to the Bush administration: Many of the Trump possibilities were appointed by Bush or held positions in his administration. While the Bush administration’s foreign and domestic policies remain a source of debate for Republicans today, conservatives agree that most of Bush’s judicial appointments were stellar.

The other promising sign is that Trump’s advisers have looked beyond the lower federal courts to include potential nominees from state supreme courts. State supreme-court justices will have special sensitivity to the balance between federal power and state sovereignty. Many have run for office and already know what it is like to be attacked by the Left. They may prove more immune to the pressure from the New York-Washington liberal media/academic elite that has managed to sway Justice Anthony Kennedy and other Republican appointees.

It also doesn’t hurt that many of the possibilities are from battleground states in the coming November elections. Trump’s team clearly respects the voters in Colorado, Minnesota, Utah, Michigan, and Texas, where he has named state supreme-court justices who have run for election.

I am thrilled by this list. But that being said, I cannot trust Trump to keep his word. He has already flip-flopped on so many issues, before, during, and after the primary campaign. How do we know he would not start wheeling and dealing on judicial appointments if he were to win the Oval Office?

John Yoo is the Emanuel S. Heller Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

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