President Donald Trump is seeking to elevate two state judges from his Supreme Court shortlist to federal courts.
Trump nominated Britt Grant, a justice on the Georgia Supreme Court, and Patrick Wyrick, an associate justice on the Oklahoma Supreme Court, to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and western Oklahoma district court, respectively. Wyrick and Grant have been named as potential nominees to the Supreme Court by the Trump administration.
The nominations pleased Carrie Severino, a conservative court watchdog at the Judicial Crisis Network and former clerk for Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. Severino said the appointments would bolster the credentials of the justices if Trump taps them to the Supreme Court. Grant is 40 and Wyrick is 37, making them particularly appealing candidates for lifetime appointments to the highest court.
"Having the experience at the federal and the state-level systems is definitely a plus," Severino said.
Both nominees have held statewide office. Grant was appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court in 2017 and Wyrick served as Oklahoma solicitor general before beginning his tenure at the state supreme court. Serving on a state supreme court should help their cases if they are nominated to the high court, according to Severino.
"It's valuable to have people at the Supreme Court level who have held state court positions and haven’t done all their work in one sphere or the other," Severino said.
Eight Supreme Court justices served on federal appeals court prior to their appointments to the nation's highest court—Associate Justice Elana Kagan is the sole exception, having served as the Obama administration's solicitor general before her 2010 appointment.
State judges often face an uphill climb in reaching the Supreme Court, according to research from Louisiana State University Prof. Kathleen Bratton and Oregon State University Prof. Rorie Spill. The most high profile state courts often give their justices too much attention leaving them open to partisan criticism, as compared to federal judges.
"State supreme court justices have a record of ruling on relatively controversial issues such as the death penalty and abortion rights," the 2003 study says. "State high courts, in general, are enjoying increased influence and visibility, yet this has clearly not translated to an increased move of state high court justices to the federal bench."
Severino said the country would benefit from having more state justices serve on the federal bench. State supreme court justices often have the privilege of settling judicial matters whereas federal judges know that the buck does not stop on sensitive or controversial cases until the federal Supreme Court
"The experience of being on the highest court in that state is an interesting dynamic, because career federal judges don’t have that experience of having the final say," she said.
Grant and Wyrick have enjoyed support from their home state senators. Georgia Senators Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.) and David Perdue (R., Ga.) praised Grant for her service to the state, as well as to the Bush administration.
"President Trump has made an excellent choice in selecting Justice Britt Grant to serve on the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals," Perdue said in a release. "As both a Georgia supreme court justice and as Georgia’s former solicitor general, Justice Grant has displayed the highest level of integrity and professionalism in her career, and I am certain that will continue with her service on the 11th Circuit."
The Oklahoma delegation, Republican senators Jim Inhofe and James Lankford, had equal praise for Wyrick's record, as well as Trump's nominee for the state's eastern district, Tulsa attorney John M. O’Connor. Lankford said Wyrick's record demonstrates that he "will uphold the rule of law while serving the nation from the bench."
"I know [Wyrick and O'Connor] will serve Oklahoma well, and I encourage the Senate to promptly confirm their nominations so they can get to work. It is important that the president continues to fill the many federal judicial vacancies across the country," Lankford said in a statement.
Grant and Wyrick are not the only individuals on Trump's shortlist who have been elevated to the federal court system. Trump has also appointed conservative judges Allison Eid, Don Willett, and David Stras to federal courts.