A Mormon Supreme Court justice?

After the announcement today that Justice Kennedy will retire, President Trump confirmed that his replacement would come from this list. The list includes both Thomas and Mike Lee, both prominent Utah Mormons.

As most readers know, Mike Lee is a senator from Utah. In my opinion, he is one of the best senators in the Senate, second only to Rand Paul. Based on his public statements, Mike Lee would make an excellent Supreme Court justice. From a strategic standpoint, Utah is very likely to choose another Republican for the Senate, so Trump’s naming Lee does not endanger the Republican Senate majority.

I didn’t know that much about Thomas Lee, but according to Wikipedia he is probably just as good as his brother.

In a 2016 article, Professor John McGinnis of the Northwestern University School of Law argued that Lee was similar to Scalia in being “capable of pressing the intellectual case for following the Constitution as written” because of Lee “has pioneered the application of corpus linguistics to law,” and further wrote that if elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court, “Lee would create a transmission belt from the best work of originalists in the academy to the Supreme Court.”

Hannah Clayson Smith, writing in the National Review, praised Lee as a possible successor to Scalia because of Lee’s similar jurisprudential style to the late Justice, but noted that with respect to Lee’s views on judicial precedent, “Justice Lee is more like Justice Thomas than like Justice Scalia.” Smith noted that Lee (like Thomas) has repeatedly advocated for overruling precedent that he views as “contrary to the original meaning of the Utah constitution,” even if precedent takes a different approach.

These are very good times for conservative/libertarians with regard to the federal courts. Much to the surprise of many, Trump has appointed some of the most conservative/originalist/textualist judges in recent history. Will he name a Mormon Supreme Court justice? We shall soon find out.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

14 thoughts on “A Mormon Supreme Court justice?

  1. As someone who didn’t vote for Trump in the 2016 election, I’ve been very surprised by his policies and judges. Not a fan of his tweets and a handful of policy issues but I’m much more pleased with him at this point in his presidency than I was George W. Bush or his father. I plan on casting a vote for him in November 2020.

  2. James, I know many, many people who would agree with you. I am still not too happy about all of the federal spending, so it is too early for me to say I would vote for him, but he has done significantly better than I predicted.

  3. I’ve had substantive, in-person, conversations with Mike Lee on several legal and policy issues. I also had opportunity to get to know his Dad somewhat, and he was a marvelous man. I would support that nomination whole-heartedly. I haven’t had the same experience with his brother, but his career as a judge certainly gives a good track record of what we could expect from him.

  4. There’s a rule of thumb in journalism that whenever a headline ends in a question, the answer to the question is “no”. It’s possible, but not very likely.

  5. Yeah, there are other much splashier names on the short list. Still, Lee might get his shot sooner than we may think. Ginsburg is getting *really* creaky. While I would never hope that somebody would “just die already”, her age can’t be denied. You never know. She really mis-stepped not retiring early in Obama’s second term (and there are people on the hard left demonizing her for it even now).

    And really, if the next justice comes off Trump’s posted list and the Republicans keep control of the senate, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Thomas go ahead and retire, too.

  6. Well, it would be a change to have a nominated justice who is neither Catholic nor Jewish. Maybe nominating a Mormon would at least continue the trend of a Supreme Court with peculiar religious demographics. And maybe a Mormon nominee could function at the nomination hearings as Catholics have for the Republicans: When asked how he would rule on various hot button issues, he can sagely muse that he would have to examine whichever cases come up because he hasn’t already decided anything. The Democrats won’t have anything to criticize except their suspicions of his religion, and the Republicans won’t have anything to reassure them except his religion, and they’ll both be right.

  7. He is on the list, but Lee will never make it. One thing Trump doesn’t like is disloyalty that endangers his authority. Lee had some very strong criticisms about the president that, I think, will disqualify him. Then again, just to give some here a smidgen of hope, Trump always bucks the trends.

  8. Lee may also benefit, in a “swing-vote” way, from being a known entity to the rest of the Senate. The concern isn’t that Democrats won’t back whoever Trump’s nominee is (because with maybe the exception of Manchin, they won’t, no matter who it is). The concern is that super-centrist Republicans (e.g. Murkowski) won’t back a Trump nom. Lee is known to the Senate, and seems to be regarded as a decent guy by his colleagues. He might be able to swing a confirmation the way a more strident conservative might not.

  9. Bookslinger, Lee is a genuine conservative. I have had many conversations with him, but I have several good friends that knew him well before he ever got into politics who will say the same thing. He is definitely a principals over politics guy as well.

  10. Lee is the “rabblerouser” that insurgent Republicans used to primary former senator Bennett in Utah back in like 2006. So he’s plenty Republican-y. In the polished and buttoned-down Mormon way. šŸ™‚

  11. Utah is a small state and Mormons are a small religion, both only making up about 1% of the population. I would say there is less than a 10% chance that the next Supreme Court Justice is Mormon in spite of many Mormons with excellent qualifications. Remember, Trump is a habitual liar and his lists mean nothing. But we can still dream, eh?

    As far as Utah being a safe Republican state, this true partially but it is not exactly safe. In fact Utah is very dangerous to Trump. Does anyone remember the sermon Mitt Romney gave during the 2016 Utah Primary explaining why Trump was such a poor candidate? I do.

    I am hoping Romney was sincere when he said all those things, and that he remembers how Trump tried to make an ass out of him by insincerely offering him an interview for an important position. I hope Romney is only playing politics and being nice now in order to win a seat in the US senate.

    But I am also hoping that Romney leads the charge to impeach Trump. It will only take a leader with guts and nothing to lose and 20 Republican senators (and the Democrats to stop thinking Trump’s insanity is helping their cause). I am hoping that Romney has the integrity that his many important church callings imply he should have and does it.

    While we are dreaming, I have one.Trump could nominate himself as a Supreme Court Justice. He could serve for life, not 4 years or less. He could continue perpetually making a clownish ass out of himself on the national stage. And it would get his filthy finger off the big button, in spite of recently kissing and making up with Kim Jong dumb dumb.

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