Supreme Court

Who are the possible nominees Trump could name to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg?

The vacancy left by the former Supreme Court Justice leaves the ideological equilibrium of the most powerful court in the US hanging in the balance.

Who are the possible nominees Trump could name to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg?
ALEX EDELMAN AFP

The vacancy left by the former Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg leaves the ideological equilibrium of the most powerful court in the US hanging in the balance. Who are Trump’s front-runners and why does it matter so much?

President Donald Trump made the announcement that he would put forth a female nomination to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg just 24 hours after her death. To chants of ‘Fill that seat! Fill that seat!’ the President made his swift revelation at a rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina on 19 September.

Bitter Democrat vs. Republican disagreement

The Republican side's move to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg so quickly after the news came that she had passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer, is hardly a surprise. Donald Trump may be voted out of the White House in the upcoming general election on 3 November and it’s potentially his final chance to make an impact.

Democrats debate the potential hypocrisy of the President’s intention, when in 2016 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, for the Supreme Court Justice post simply because it was 9 months ahead of an election. Now less than 6 weeks from the election, Trump seems to be doing exactly that.

McConnell has pushed back on these claims, arguing that Obama’s Democratic party did not have control over both the House and the Senate in 2016, which Republicans in 2020 now do. This argument seems to be an arbitrary defence and doesn’t appear to have a basis in accepted protocol.

Why does the replacement for Ginsberg matter so much?

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a towering gender equality champion, became a left wing icon, was the second woman ever to be a Supreme Court Justice and served in the role for 27 years.

A conservative-leaning lifetime replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsberg would certainly tip the balance of the court in favour of Republican values, affecting issues across the country and in all aspects of American life for decades to come: healthcare, gun control, abortion, civil liberties and voting rights all at stake. It would be Trump’s third Supreme Court appointment in only his first term as president, with nine justices in total.

Of those nine justices the late Ginsberg was one of four holding more liberal values, alongside five with varying degrees of conservative ideology. Another appointment by Trump would mean that the balance tips to six vs. three in favour of conservatives.

On Tuesday Republican Mitt Romney of Utah gave the party the 51 votes needed to move forward with voting on Trump’s nomination. The president will announce his choice on Saturday 26 September at 17:00 EST.

Who is Amy Coney Barrett?

Amy Coney Barrett

48-year-old Amy Coney Barrett is currently in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She is the front-runner to be Trump’s nominee this time round. That’s because she was seriously considered in 2018 when Anthony Kennedy retired and Trump made the nomination to replace him.

Barrett is from North Carolina and a devout catholic who is thought to be fiercely anti-abortion. She is also hostile to the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare”  which makes healthcare accessible to families living in poverty across the US.

A Washington Post article from 2018 which looked at how her beliefs might affect her decisions, experts concluded that she would likely support the overturning of Roe v. Wade, given the chance.

Roe v. Wade (1973) was a landmark US Supreme Court ruling which decided that the Constitution of the United Stated protects a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction. If overturned, reproductive rights for women in the US would likely be further restricted.

Who is Barbara Lagoa?

Barbara Lagoa

Barbara Lagoa, 52-years-old, currently serves as a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the eleventh circuit.

Lagoa was the first Hispanic woman to be appointed as a justice of the Supreme Court of Florida. The daughter of exiles who fled Fidel Castro’s Cuba, Lagoa has the backing of Florida governor Ron DeSantis, a state Trump is desperate to win in November.

Her values chime strongly with other conservative justices on the court, historically she has opposed lifting minimum wages and upheld a law demanding that ex-felons pay public debt before they can vote.

She does, however believe that Roe v. Wade is a “binding precedent of the Supreme Court”.

Who is Allison Jones Rushing?

By far the youngest option on Trump’s shortlist is Allison Jones Rushing, who’s only 38-years-old, and a bit of a wild card. She’s based in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the fourth circuit.

She would be among the youngest ever appointments to be made at the Supreme Court and if confirmed, in for a presumably very long run on the bench. Her nomination may give pause to the more moderate Republicans and would certainly enrage the left.

From North Carolina, Rushing has previously blocked progress on gay rights issues, defending the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.