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.