Likely high court pick an abor­tion foe

Judge Pryor called Roe v. Wade an ‘abom­i­na­tion’

Baltimore Sun - - TRUMP TRANSITION - By David G. Sav­age

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.”

CLIFF OWEN/AP

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