Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump released a short list of potential Supreme Court nominees last week, and conservatives broadly praised the names.
In comments to PJ Media, two legal scholars at First Liberty Institute, the largest legal organization devoted exclusively to protecting religious freedom in America, also praised Trump’s choices, but added three more — a sort of wish list for religious-freedom advocates.
First Liberty President and CEO Kelley Shackelford told PJ Media that Trump’s list shows some savvy — he has chosen some younger judges “who could thus serve on the Supreme Court for many more years, as well as a large number of judges from the midwest and the states versus the more typical approach of picking only judges from major cities or DC.”
“Trump is trying to show the type of originalist justices he would appoint to the Supreme Court, and he has started off with some solid choices,” Shackelford wrote in an email statement. “I do think he has left off a few of the top choices in the nation (top legal minds in the country who are also solid conservatives), but he still has time of find these to add to his list.”
Ken Klukowski, senior counsel and director of strategic affairs at First Liberty, explained that originalism means “the Constitution must be interpreted only according to the original meaning of the words.” This view stands in stark contrast to the “living Constitution” understanding of a document which can be interpreted to apply broadly to more modern rights and issues, such as the Obergefell v. Hodges decision which legalized gay marriage.
Klukowski emphasized that he and Shackelford “would not presume to tell a presidential nominee what names should be on the list.” Klukowski emphatically applauded the list, as he did in an op ed last Thursday. “It is a wonderful list from a conservative perspective and draws a very sharp contrast between him and Hillary Clinton…worlds apart in terms of what America would get.”
Nevertheless, he agreed with Shackelford that defenders of religious liberty would respectfully hope that The Donald will add a few more names.
Trump himself noted that he might add more to the list.
My list of potential U.S. Supreme Court Justices was very well recieved. During the next number of weeks I may be adding to the list!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2016
If The Donald does pick more people, here are the three that Klukowski and Shakelford suggest.
Next Page: A former law clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia.
3. Paul Clement
“If I were to add someone, my first addition would be Paul Clement,” Shackelford wrote. Clement has a long list of stellar qualifications. “He is a former solicitor general of the United States and has argued over 80 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He is also a former law clerk for Justice Scalia,” the conservative giant who passed away untimely earlier this year.
Clement’s greatest qualification is his conservatism, however. “Most of all, he has argued, pro bono, the biggest cases in the country for religious liberty and conservative causes, including Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor,” Shackelford added.
“Anyone willing to expend hundreds of hours of pro bono for religious freedom and defending the Constitution in the biggest cases in our history is a person you know you can count on to continue to stand by the Constitution and continue the faithful legacy of Justice Scalia.”
Klukowski also emphasized the nature of Clement’s pro bono work. “He went out of his way to take these cases for clients who couldn’t pay money for it,” the senior counsel said. This shows true determination to conservative causes like the defense of religious freedom.
Next Page: A stalwart conservative U.S. senator from a Western state…
2. U.S. Senator Mike Lee
Klukowski emphasized that “arguing cases is only part of a record,” and that legal understanding and advocacy for an originalist interpretation of the Constitution extends to members of Congress as well.
Utah Senator Mike Lee has demonstrated that understanding and advocacy in both the legal and lawmaking arenas. “Mike Lee’s work as a senator is a much clearer indication of his personal philosophy than many lawyers, because they argue for their clients,” Klukowski explained. “A U.S. senator who’s been in office six years with a very robust constitutional philosophy reflected in their work is a rock solid record as to what their views are on the Constitution.”
Lee has also laid out his views on restoring the Constitution along originalist lines in his 2015 book, Our Lost Constitution: The Willful Subversion of America’s Founding Document.
Lee is one of only two former Supreme Court law clerks in the U.S. Senate on the Republican side. The other is also a great pick for the Supreme Court, and chances are you’ve heard of him.
Next Page: The junior senator from Texas.
1. Texas Senator Ted Cruz
Before he ran for president, and before he became a senator, Ted Cruz served as solicitor general of Texas, arguing numerous cases before the Supreme Court. He served as clerk to Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and was the longest-serving solicitor general in Texas history, as well as the first Hispanic.
Klukowski noted that Clement, Mike Lee, and Senator Cruz “would be three that supporters of religious liberty would be thrilled to see on the Supreme Court.”
As one of The Donald’s chief rivals for the Republican nomination, Cruz might be an odd pick for Trump. But if Trump added the junior senator from Texas to his list, it would show his willingness to make peace within the Republican Party and would likely motivate Cruz backers to fall in line.
Trump’s original list was entirely composed of judges. “In terms of non-judges that supporters of religious liberty would like to see on the Supreme Court, those three names would be at the top of the list,” Klukowski declared. “Their careers reflect such extraordinary legal talent,” and a firm commitment to conservative principles.
Finally, it is important to note again that Klukowski and Shackelford praised Trump’s Supreme Court list. While they want these three stalwart conservatives added to it, the legal experts were very impressed with The Donald’s choices and fully support them. It would just be nice to have Clement, Lee, and Cruz added as well.