If the way to Trump’s heart is through his family, Judge Thomas Hardiman should be a shoe-in to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement.
Hardiman served on the 3rd Circuit court of appeals with Trump’s older sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, who gave her strong endorsement of the jurist, who turns 53 on Sunday.
But more goes into Trump’s decision-making process than familial advice.
Hardiman was the second in consideration the last time the president had to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, but ultimately lost out to Neil Gorsuch.
So what does Hardiman bring to the table that could help him inch by this time?
One thing Trump’s Republican base likes is Hardiman’s record on the second amendment.
As a federal appeals judge, Hardiman ruled that two convicted felons should not be barred from access to guns because their crimes were not violent in nature, and would not predict the use of gun violence for illicit purposes. He also dissented in an opinion that allowed New Jersey to regulate handgun use in public, a case that the Supreme Court declined to review on several occasions.
But while his career has afforded him the opportunity to weigh in on cases having to do with controversial issues such as the death penalty, where he has at times sided with inmates and at other times sided with the state, Hardiman has never had the opportunity to weigh in on one hot-button issue that has become central in the conversation around Kennedy’s successor: abortion.
That could be an asset. While his generally conservative credentials can lead court watchers to conclude that he would take a more pro-life approach than Kennedy, liberal critics would have trouble nailing down examples of “open hostility” to Roe v. Wade, the likes of which Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said would be a non-starter for her in confirmation votes.
The closest guess one might get is his ruling in a case against the so-called “birth control mandate” in Obamacare, that required organizations to pay for plans that offer contraception. He sided with a religious group, Little Sisters of the Poor, that claimed the law violated its religious freedom.
Another factor in Hardiman’s favor? He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in a 95-0 vote to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in 2007.
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