With news of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s impending retirement, President Donald Trump must now hurry to find his replacement before for November’s midterm elections.

This will be the second justice Trump appoints following his nomination of conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch back in 2016. Considering Kennedy was a frequent swing vote in the past, the decision now offers Trump the opportunity to upset the balance in the conservatives favor. 

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Trump said he had spoken with Kennedy about his replacement. “[We] had a very deep discussion. I got his ideas on things,” Trump said. “I asked him if he had certain people he had great respect for that could potentially take his seat.” 


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In before the election, Trump released a short-list of 25 candidates whom he plans to consider for the position which was vetted by the conservative Heritage Foundation. From that list, legal experts say that the favorites include a host of conservative judges:

Amy Coney Barrett, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit

Barrett previously served as a professor of law at her alma mater, Notre Dame as well as worked as a clerk to late Justice Antonin Scalia. She was nominated to the seventh circuit by Trump. When being confirmed for the position, Democrats had reservations about her traditional Catholic beliefs.

Thomas Hardiman, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit

Hardiman was nominated to the third circuit by former President George Bush. Hardiman was also runner-up for Justice Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. The judge previously expressed his dissent in a case that upheld a New Jersey law prohibiting handgun possession without a permit.

Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Kavanaugh is a former clerk to outgoing Justice Kennedy. He also previously worked on the 1990’s Starr Report, which detailed allegations of President Bill Clinton‘s sexual conduct with Monica Lewinsky. He also recently voiced his dissent over a ruling allowing an undocumented minor to obtain an abortion. In a 2006 report by the ABA, Kavanaugh was critiqued for his lack of law experience. They noted he “had never tried a case to verdict or judgment… [and] had very little experience with criminal cases.”

Raymond Kethledge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit

Kethledge is a former Kennedy clerk and also served a single year as counsel to Ford Motor Co. Critics worry the judge may favor business and pose a threat to union efforts.

Amul Thapar, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit

Thapar previously served as US attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, chosen by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He then sat on the US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. He was nominated to the sixth circuit by Trump in 2017.

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