Trump identifies 11 potential US Supreme Court nominees

Trump announces shortlist for SCOTUS
Trump announces shortlist for SCOTUS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Presumptive Republican U.S. presidential nominee

Donald Trump on Wednesday unveiled the names of 11 judges - eight men and three women, all white and all conservative - he would consider, if elected, to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

Six of them are judges who were appointed to federal appeals courts around the country by Republican former President George W. Bush. The other five serve on various state supreme courts.

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Scalia's replacement could tip the ideological balance of the court, which now is evenly divided with four conservative justices and four liberals. Scalia, who died in February, was one of the court's most conservative justices.

All of Trump's 11 judges are listed as affiliated with the Federalist Society on the influential conservative legal group's website. The organization is known as a breeding ground for conservative legal thinkers.

It is unusual for a presidential candidate to release names of potential Supreme Court or Cabinet nominees before winning an election.

But Trump is working to assure conservatives in his own party that, if elected president on Nov. 8, he would not appoint a liberal or moderate judge to the court. Trump allies had encouraged him to announce the names of potential court nominees in order to allay fears among conservatives wary of a Trump presidency.

It also includes: Raymond Kethledge of Michigan, a judge on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals; William Pryor of Alabama, a judge on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals; and Diane Sykes of Wisconsin, a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The state supreme court jurists include: Allison Eid of Colorado; Joan Larsen of Michigan; Thomas Lee of Utah; David Stras of Minnesota; and Don Willett of Texas.

See more of the judges on the list:

Democratic President Barack Obama in March named centrist appellate court judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy. But the Republican-led Senate has refused to hold confirmation hearings or a vote, insisting that Obama's successor, to be elected in November, should get to select Scalia's replacement.

Lee is the brother of Senator Mike Lee of Utah, one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate.

Sykes is the wife of conservative Wisconsin radio host Charles Sykes. The radio host posted on Twitter that his wife would make a great justice, but that "I simply don't believe Trump."

CRITICAL TWEETS

At least one judge on the list has been critical of Trump. Willett last June tweaked Trump on Twitter. Willet posted about imagining Trump selecting a Supreme Court nominee.

"The mind reels. *weeps—can't finish tweet*," Willett wrote, suggesting he was crying at the idea.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest, at his daily briefing, said he would be surprised if any Democrat would describe any of Trump's picks "as a consensus nominee."

"But the individual President Obama has put forward is somebody that Republicans have described as a consensus nominee," Earnest said of Garland, adding that it would be wise for the Senate to act on Obama's nominee.

Trump's list does not include some prominent conservatives who are viewed as Washington insiders and have been mentioned as potential nominees in the past, including appeals court judge Brett Kavanaugh and Paul Clement, a former solicitor general under Bush.

Trump said in a statement that his "list of potential Supreme Court justices is representative of the kind of constitutional principles I value and, as President, I plan to use this list as a guide to nominate our next United States Supreme Court Justices."

In March, Trump said he would consult with the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank to compile a list of potential nominees.

The risk for Trump is that public scrutiny of the names on the list could elicit criticism within his own party and from Democrats, who will likely tie Trump to all of the judges' previous positions.

(Reporting by Ginger Gibson, Lawrence Hurley, Susan Heavey, Timothy Gardner and Alana Wise.; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Will Dunham)