January 25, 2017
In the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election, many observers lamented that the lame duck nomination of U.S. appeals court judge Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court might indefinitely polarize a nation that looks to the high court as an arbiter of political differences.
With Donald Trump now installed in the White House, the president plans to announce a new nomination next Thursday. Among the frontrunners is Thomas Hardiman, a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals Third Circuit, according to multiple reports.
Hardiman, who maintains chambers in Pittsburgh, has stood out for rulings in favor of gun rights and law enforcement powers over the course of his career. In Philadelphia in 2014, he struck down a city charter provision that prevented police officers from donating to their union's political action committee. He's also ruled that New Jersyans need not show a "justifiable need" to obtain a permit to carry a handgun in public.
If nominated, Hardiman would be the only Supreme Court Justice not to have attended an Ivy League university. He received his law degree from Georgetown University and attended Notre Dame University as an undergraduate. At the start of his career, he drove a taxi in Pittsburgh in order to supplement his income. His focus as an attorney was primarily civil and white-collar criminal litigation.
According to Bloomberg, Hardiman's main competition is Neil Gorsuch, a U.S. Court of Appeals judge on the 10th Circuit, and Judge William Pryor of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
Democrats, now outnumbered 52-48 in the Senate, do possess the power to block a Trump nominee since 60 votes are required confirm a Supreme Court Justice. Republicans have hinted, however, that they may exercise a "nuclear option" that would amend the rule in favor of a simple majority.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told FOX's Chris Wallace this week that he fully expects Trump's nominee to be confirmed.