President Trump's short list for the Supreme Court


WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's team is hoping to nominate a successor to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy soon, according to White House insiders working on the process.

"We have to pick a great one. We have to pick one that's going to be there for 40 years, 45 years," Trump said at a campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota, on Wednesday night, suggesting that his nominee will be young enough to serve that long on the court, where the average retirement age in recent years has been 83.

Among frontrunners, according to those involved in the process, is Brett Kavanaugh of Maryland. He serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and is a former Kennedy law clerk, as is Neil Gorsuch, Trump's first Supreme Court nominee, the successor to Antonin Scalia.

More on Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy:

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Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy
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Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10: U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy is seen during a ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House April 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day Gorsuch, 49, was sworn in as the 113th Associate Justice in a private ceremony at the Supreme Court. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
Justices of the US Supreme Court sit for their official group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 1, 2017. Seated (L-R): Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony M. Kennedy, Chief Justice of the US John G. Roberts, Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer. Standing (L-R): Associate Justices Elena Kagan, Samuel Alito Jr., Sonia Sotomayor and Neil Gorsuch. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10: U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justices Anthony Kennedy and Neil Gorsuch are seen during a ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House April 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day Gorsuch, 49, was sworn in as the 113th Associate Justice in a private ceremony at the Supreme Court. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, left, embraces Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy after taking the oath of office during a ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, April 10, 2017. U.S. President Donald Trump said Gorsuch is 'deeply faithful to the Constitution' in the beginning of his speech at the start of the ceremony. Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10: U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy delivers remarks before administering the judicial oath to Judge Neil Gorsuch during a ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House April 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day Gorsuch, 49, was sworn in as the 113th Associate Justice in a private ceremony at the Supreme Court. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 28: President Donald Trump greets Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy after addressing a joint session of Congress in the Capitol's House Chamber, February 28, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and John Roberts arrive on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 20: U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy arrives for the funeral of fellow Associate Justice Antonin Scalia at the the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception February 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. Scalia, who died February 13 while on a hunting trip in Texas, layed in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court on Friday and his funeral service will be at the basillica today. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 19: Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan, left, Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr., Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Anthony M. Kennedy react during prayers at a private ceremony in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court where late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia lies in repose on February 19, 2016 in Washington, DC. Justice Scalia will lie in repose in the Great Hall of the high court where visitors will pay their respects. (Photo by Jacquelyn Martin - Pool/Getty Images)
US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (L) and Justices Anthony Kennedy (2nd L), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (C), Stephen Breyer (2nd R) and Sonia Sotomayor listen to US President Barack Obama deliver the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 12, 2016. Obama gives his final State of the Union address, perhaps the last opportunity of his presidency to sway a national audience and frame the 2016 election. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 24: Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, left, and Justice Anthony Kennedy, attend an address by Pope Francis to a joint meeting of Congress in the House chamber of the Capitol, September 24, 2015. Francis is the first pope to ever address Congress. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy listens to opening statements during a Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, March 23, 2015. Sprinting toward their spring recess, the House and Senate will separately consider budget blueprints, perhaps leading to the first joint congressional budget in six years. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Supreme Court Justices (L-R) John G. Roberts, Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor stand before the State of the Union address by President Barack Obama on January 20, 2015 in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to address income inequality, making it easier for Americans to afford college education, and child care. (Photo by Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer, left, and Anthony Kennedy testify during a Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, March 23, 2015. Sprinting toward their spring recess, the House and Senate will separately consider budget blueprints, perhaps leading to the first joint congressional budget in six years. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Leonard Leo, who has taken a leave of absence from the conservative Federalist Society to help in the selection process, said the nominee will be a judge.

"It will certainly be someone with a demonstrated judicial record," Leo said.

That suggests that non-judges on list of potential candidates released by the White House last November, such as Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, are not current frontrunners for a Supreme Court nomination.

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Possible replacements for Supreme Court Justice Kennedy
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Possible replacements for Supreme Court Justice Kennedy

Brett Kavanaugh

(Photo by Dennis Brack/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Thomas Hardiman 

Photo Credit: SCOTUS Blog

Amy Coney Barrett

Photo Credit: University of Notre Dame

Judge Raymond Kethledge of Michigan, who serves on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is seen in this 2017 photo released by Bloomsbury Publishing Inc. in New York, New York, U.S., July 6, 2018.

(Courtesy Bloomsbury/Abdul El-Tayef/WPPi.com for Raymond Kethledge/Handout via REUTERS)

Mike Lee

 Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Amul Thapar

Photo Credit: UVA Law

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Others mentioned by insiders are all federal appeals court judges, including Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, who serves alongside Trump's sister on the Third Circuit. Hardiman and Gorsuch were the two finalists last year when the president was choosing Scalia's successor.

The rest of the short list includes two judges from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals — Raymond Kethledge of Michigan and Amul Thapar, who is from Kentucky, home state of Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — and Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana on the Seventh Circuit appeals court.

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