In one of the most bizarre bits of right-wing paranoia in years, a small group of otherwise thoughtful Christian conservatives have been spending great energy trashing the reputation of Supreme Court short-lister William Pryor, the admirable Alabamian who sits on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and also chairs the U.S. Sentencing Commission. It is bizarre because it is so obvious to most conservative legal eagles that Pryor is about as solid a constitutional conservative as we will ever see.
On these pages last week, the Heritage Foundation’s John Malcolm rightly defended Pryor from these unfair and ill-advised attacks. Now, today at the Daily Signal, comes even more firepower to sing Pryor’s praises and to make mincemeat of the supposed case against him. The firepower comes from perhaps the most respected conservative legal eminence this side of Clarence Thomas, namely former U.S. Attorney General and Reagan confidant Ed Meese. Meese, of course, personally launched the resurgence of “originalism” as a constitutional-interpretive movement back in 1985 with a seminal speech that predated the appointments of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. Meese is thus, in many respects, the grandfather of the modern conservative legal movement; and nobody, repeat nobody, receives or deserves more respect from conservatives who want judges to merely apply the law, not remake it.
Against Pryor’s critics, Meese writes that “these claims about Pryor are simply wrong.”
Pryor’s views on everything from morality to his faith to abortion to criminal sentencing are well known. But more importantly, so is his fidelity to the Constitution — from his time as attorney general of Alabama to his service as a federal court of appeals judge. Pryor is a dedicated public servant who understands the proper, limited scope of the judiciary. . . . One of the most important qualities of a judge is impartiality — the ability to set aside his personal feelings and beliefs and ensure they don’t interfere with the way he applies the plain text of a statute or the Constitution. . . . I know Bill Pryor, and his record demonstrates that Trump would be hard-pressed to find a judge more committed to these principles.
The good news is that each person on Donald Trump’s reported five-person short list for the High Court is a solid, well-vetted, textualist judge. The reason Pryor is on that short list is that he has a three-decade long record of fidelity to conservative constitutionalism. If he does end up nominated and confirmed to the Supreme Court, the country will be reaping the benefits of his intelligence and integrity for as much as three decades more.