Donald Trump’s list of 21 potential nominees to the Supreme Court has important clues about the president-elect’s judicial priorities, and it has a few surprises, says the New York Times. The list manages both to reassure the conservative legal establishment and to represent a rebellion against it. In important ways, Trump’s candidates represent a sharp break from the current conservative justices, who all went to law school at Harvard or Yale and who all served on federal appeals courts in the Northeast or in California. If the list has a main theme, it is that there are plenty of good judges who went to law school at places like Notre Dame, Marquette, the University of Georgia and the University of Miami.
About half of Trump’s candidates sit on state Supreme Courts, nearly all of them in the heartland. Trump’s list, like his campaign, is a revolt against elitism in a legal profession that is deeply hierarchical, obsessed with credentials and dominated by lawyers on the two coasts. At the same time, his candidates are committed judicial conservatives. Trump credited two leading conservative policy groups — the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society — with helping to draw up his list. “You had an awful lot of conservatives during the campaign who were incredibly skeptical, to put it mildly, about Donald Trump,” said John G. Malcolm, a Heritage Foundation official who suggested a number of names that appeared on the list. “But they certainly cared a lot about the Scalia vacancy and the direction of the court. And that list was a very, very sober list, and it was greatly reassuring.”