Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was instrumental to Supreme Court decisions involving same-sex marriage, abortion and campaign finance (the so-called Citizens United decision), announced that he will retire after a 30-year term on the bench.
Following the announcement Wednesday, President Donald Trump issued a statement praising Kennedy and making clear that the search for a new justice would commence immediately.
“Hopefully we’re going to pick somebody who will be as outstanding,” Trump said.
Naming Kennedy’s replacement would give Trump a second pick on the Supreme Court. In January 2017, the president successfully nominated Neil Gorsuch to the bench after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who served 30 years on the high court.
Trump’s call for an immediate search comes amid pushback from Democrats, who demand the nomination wait until after the November elections. Democrats remain bitter about the Republicans’ refusal to consider President Obama’s last nominee to the court, instead of delaying until Obama had left office. Now, the tide has turned. If Democrats take back a majority of seats in the Senate, that would allow them more say in affecting the nomination.
Among those nominees: 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Thomas Hardiman, based in Pittsburgh, and 11th U.S. Circuit Court Judge William Pryor, who works in Birmingham, Alabama. Both were among the possibilities for the seat that ultimately went to Gorsuch.
Hardiman and Pryor appear to be millionaires, just like the majority of their potential colleagues already on the nation’s highest court, and many of Trump’s other picks for senior positions, as the Center for Public Integrity reported last year.
Of course, Trump’s pick could also be a wild card. But here’s what we do know — as of 2015 — about the financial disclosures of the previous top nominees.
Last year, the Center for Public Integrity reviewed the annual financial disclosures of Hardiman and Pryor, when it appeared they might be nominated to the high court — including disclosures covering 2014 that were gathered by the National Law Journal. To be sure, the judges’ financial situations could have changed since then.
Of the two, only Hardiman appeared to own stock directly in companies, a potential “mousetrap” for judges due to the potential for conflicts of interest with their caseloads. Such financial holdings can lead to recusals that could have dramatic effects in a court where decisions are often split 5-to-4. In a 2014 investigation, the Center for Public Integrity found 24 cases in which federal appellate judges owned stock in companies before them yet did not step aside, a violation of federal law. None of those involved Hardiman or Pryor. Five of the cases were subsequently reopened.
Here’s what to know about Trump’s possible Supreme Court picks. To find disclosures about a particular business or topic, type search terms in the box (for example, “eBay”) and hit return. Or, scroll down to read the profiles and click on the disclosure links below.
Chris Zubak-Skees and Kytja Weir contributed to this story.
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