WASHINGTON — They’re all younger than 55 and conservative enough to make a first cut. But the four judges who are apparently the finalists for President Donald Trump’s second Supreme Court nomination are being measured against a set of questions that go well beyond age and ideology.
Chicago-based judge Amy Coney Barrett is the only female on Trump’s short list.
Presidents weigh all sorts of considerations in deciding on a Supreme Court nominee, often beginning with the big question: Will the choice be confirmed by the Senate?
Academic credentials, professional experience and sometimes even gender, race and geographical diversity all can be part of the equation.
The stakes are sky high for filling the opening created by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s imminent retirement. The new justice has the potential to entrench conservative control of the Supreme Court for years to come.
Here are some of the pluses and minuses for Amy Coney Barrett.
Background on Amy Coney Barrett
Current position: Barrett was confirmed by the Senate to a lifetime appointment on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals this past October. She considers federal appeals from Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois and hears the cases in the Dirksen Federal Building courthouse in Chicago’s Loop.
Education: Barrett received her undergraduate degree from Rhodes College in Memphis and studied law at the University of Notre Dame where she is a longtime law professor.
Distinction: If Trump is looking to make history, Barrett could have some appeal. If she’s chosen and confirmed, it would be the first time four women would serve together on the nine-member Supreme Court. In addition, she is the youngest of the leading candidates, and Trump has said he wants his nominee to serve for decades.
Track record: Barrett’s recent ascension to the appeals court means she does not have the long, conservative record that lawmakers on the right find reassuring. Barrett is also seen as a potentially divisive nominee because of statements she’s made about her Catholic faith and about abortion.
In her 20s, she co-authored a paper that said Catholic judges, if they are faithful to church teachings, are “morally precluded” from enforcing the death penalty. At her recent confirmation hearing, however, she said it was never permissible for judges to “follow their personal convictions in deciding a case.” More recently, she’s written that abiding by precedent is “not a hard-and-fast rule” in the Supreme Court’s constitutional cases. Although the statement is undoubtedly accurate, it is likely to be seized on by supporters of abortion rights as they try to convince moderate Republican senators that Barrett might vote to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision declaring a woman’s constitutional right to abortion.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) questions Barrett on her Catholic faith and whether it would influence her decisions on the federal appeals court in her Senate confirmation hearing, Sept. 6, 2017. Source: C-SPAN
Private life: Barrett grew up in Louisiana. Even though her federal job is in Chicago, she lives in South Bend, Indiana, where her husband, Jesse, is an assistant United States attorney in the Northern District of Indiana, whose legal turf takes in Fort Wayne, Hammond, South Bend and Lafayette. They are the parents of seven children, two of whom are adopted from Haiti and a third – their youngest – a son with special needs.
Barrett talks about her family in her introductory remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Source: C-SPAN
Support for nomination: Barrett also served as a law clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who is beloved by conservatives. And she recently made it through the confirmation process, with the Senate approving her nomination to be an appeals court judge in October. Three Democrats voted for her then.
Contributors: Lynn Sweet and Jon Seidel; Mark Sherman and Jessica Gresko of the Associated Press