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Barrett among 4 SCOTUS contenders Trump has interviewed

July 3, 2018

President Donald Trump has interviewed four prospective Supreme Court justices so far, including Notre Dame law professor and 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Trump said Tuesday he expects to interview two to three more contenders as his nominee to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Here is a look at the four candidates Trump has interviewed:

AMY CONEY BARRETT: Barrett, 46, was a former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia and a longtime Notre Dame Law School professor. At her confirmation hearing last fall to become an appellate court judge, Democrats peppered Barrett on whether her Roman Catholic faith would interfere with her work. Democrats cited a 1998 paper in which she argued that Catholic judges might need to recuse themselves in death penalty cases.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California told Barrett that dogma and law are two different things and she was concerned “that the dogma lives loudly within you.” Barrett was eventually confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago after telling senators that her views had since broadened. She said it was never permissible for a judge to “follow their personal convictions in the decision of a case, rather than what the law requires.”

BRETT KAVANAUGH: Kavanaugh, 53, is a Yale-educated appellate court judge for the District of Columbia who recently wrote a dissent when his colleagues allowed an immigrant teen in U.S. custody to have an abortion.

But he’s probably best known for helping independent counsel Kenneth Starr during the impeachment probe of President Bill Clinton and his ties to President George W. Bush. A former clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy, Kavanaugh worked on behalf of the Bush campaign during the 2000 election recount, later taking a job in the White House counsel office and as staff secretary.

When he was confirmed to the federal appeals court in D.C. in 2006, Bush took the unusual step of hosting a Rose Garden swearing-in ceremony with 120 guests to celebrate. At the time, Democrats panned Kavanaugh as a political operative who was being elevated to the court to provide a rubber stamp for Bush’s executive actions.

RAYMOND KETHLEDGE: Kethledge, 51, is a former Kennedy law clerk and appeals court judge who graduated from the University of Michigan and its law school. He serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati, Ohio.

He co-authored a book with Army veteran Michael Erwin of The Positivity Project published last year called “Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude” in which he describes himself as an introvert. In an interview with the legal news site Above the Law, Kethledge said “I love to write” and prefers working from his barn office in northern Michigan overlooking Lake Huron without an internet connection. He said he found it “distracting” to his work in 2016 when he found himself on Trump's short list of nominees to replace Scalia, a job that eventually went to Justice Neil Gorsuch.

In the 1990s, Kethledge was counsel to Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham of Michigan, who became Bush’s energy secretary. Kethledge eventually founded a boutique litigation firm with two partners in Troy, Michigan. He was nominated to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006 and confirmed in 2008.

AMUL THAPAR: Thapar, 49, is a federal appeals court judge from Kentucky who is close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He was Trump’s first judicial nomination to a district or appeals court, and on Trump’s short list to replace Scalia last year, losing out to Gorsuch.

In one of his more interesting court cases, Thapar in 2014 as a district court judge in Kentucky sentenced an elderly nun to almost three years in prison for breaking into a U.S. storehouse for bomb-grade uranium and splashing blood on the walls of the bunker. She argued she was acting as a follower of Jesus Christ; Thapar said that provided no excuse for breaching the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. (An appeals court later threw out the sabotage charge, leaving the lesser charge of injuring government property and releasing her from prison early.)

An alumnus of Boston College and the University of California, Berkeley, law school, Thapar was nominated by Trump to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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