Kavanaugh, Barrett Leading Trump SCOTUS List

Retiring Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy / Getty Images
July 2, 2018

Two conservative federal judges, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, are the leading contenders to replace retiring justice Anthony Kennedy.

Kavanaugh and Barrett are on the top of President Donald Trump's list as he goes into interviews with potential Kennedy replacements Monday, CBS News reports.

Both judges appear on Trump's list of 25 judges who have been Supreme Court contenders since the appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia last year. The two also appear on the shorter list of top picks widely circulated following Kennedy’s retirement announcement, alongside Judges Thomas Hardiman, Raymond Kethledge, and Amul Thapar.

Kavanaugh, 53, is a judge on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. He first rose to national attention for his work on the Starr Report, as well as the investigation into the death of former Clinton legal counsel Vince Foster. A former Kennedy clerk, Kavanaugh likely curried favor with the Trump administration for his recent opinion finding that the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was unconstitutional, granting Trump the ability to fire its head at his discretion.

Barrett, 46, was a law professor at her alma mater Notre Dame before her appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Her nomination as Kennedy's replacement has already earned the public endorsement of several prominent conservatives. But her last confirmation hearing proved controversial, as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) attacked Barett's Catholic faith, insinuating that, "the dogma lives loudly within [her]."

Barrett and Kavanaugh's convictions on one issue are likely to be of particular import to their confirmation: abortion. Commentators have explicitly framed Trump's pick in terms of whether or not a fifth conservative justice would constitute a majority to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and Republican senator Susan Collins (Maine), one of the few GOP members of Congress to lean pro-abortion, has said she will not back a candidate who would overturn the cases.

It's unclear where either judge Barrett or Kavanaugh come down on abortion's constitutionality. Kavanaugh voted against a D.C. circuit which granted access to abortion to a teenage illegal immigrant; Barrett has not much commented on the issue, but her public comments suggest a suspicion of Roe's legal reasoning.

Kennedy has announced that he will retire on July 31, and Trump has said he intends to have a nominee several weeks prior, with July 9 as the current deadline.