Likely high court pick an abortion foe
Judge Pryor called Roe v. Wade an ‘abomination’
WASHINGTON — The leading contender for the first Supreme Court nomination under a President Donald Trump is Judge William Pryor Jr., a former Alabama attorney general who called the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.”
Trump will choose the successor for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a hero to conservatives. And last week, Pryor, 54, was a betting favorite among the conservative lawyers who met for the annual Federalist Society in Washington, which honored Scalia.
Before becoming a judge, Pryor drew attention with a series of outspoken Scalialike pronouncements on issues like abortion and gay rights. He ended one speech “with a prayer” for George W. Bush upon his becoming president: “Please God, no more Souters,” Pryor said, a reference to Justice David Souter, a Republican appointee who disappointed conservatives during his 19 years on the court.
No one on the right worries that Pryor would move to the center or left if he were appointed to the high court. And he has the inside track now because he is a protege of Jeff Sessions, the Alabama senator tapped for U.S. attorney general.
“He would be great,” said Roger Pilon, vice president for legal affairs at the libertarian Cato Institute.
More importantly, Donald J. Trump appears to share that view.
Hours after Scalia died in February, Trump spoke at a Republican presidential debate and mentioned Pryor as one of the “fantastic people” who could replace Scalia.
Judge Diane Sykes of Wisconsin, a moderate conservative who sits on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, is another leading candidate.
During the campaign, Trump put out two lists and a total of 21 potential Supreme Court nominees, and his aides say he will make his selection from those lists.
Lawyers at the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society expect Trump will choose a federal appeals court judge whois under age 60 and has a conservative record.
The favored candidates include Judges Neil Gorsuch from the 10th Circuit Court in Denver, Steven Colloton from the 8th Circuit Court in St. Louis, and Raymond Kethledge from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court in Cincinnati and Thomas Hardiman from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court in Philadelphia.
Trump’s list also includes Judge William Pryor is thought to be Donald Trump’s top choice for the Supreme Court. several state justices, and the most talked about names are Joan Larsen, a Michigan Supreme Court justice who was once a clerk for Scalia, and Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, who was a sometimes critic of candidate Trump.
The Federalist Society meeting featured speeches by Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, and its panel talks included nine of the 21 potential Trump nominees to the high court.
Pryor moderated a panel on the “separation of powers,” and he echoed Scalia’s view that “real constitu- tional law” is about the “governing structure,” not the individual rights protected by the Constitution. “It’s a mistake to think the Bill of Rights is the most important feature of American democracy,” he said.
Pryor believes, as did Scalia, that issues like abortion or same-sex marriage are not individual rights protected by the Constitution, but instead are matters left to be decided by the states and their voters.
George Washington Law Professor Jonathan Turley, who spoke on the panel, said he had known Pryor since they were law clerks in New Orleans.
“Bill is extremely smart and committed to first principles of constitutional interpretation,” Turley said after the panel talk. Liberal activists say they would fight hard to prevent Pryor being confirmed for the Supreme Court. “His nomination would ignite a firestorm across the country,” said Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice. “Our organization and others would pull out every stop to keep him off the court.”