President Trump said he will nominate a new Supreme Court justice next Thursday to replace the late Antonin Scalia.
During last year's campaign, Trump circulated a list of candidates he would consider, but most of the buzz in legal circles has focused on three federal appeals court judges: Neil Gorsuch of Colorado, William Pryor of Alabama and Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania.
The high-profile pick is likely to re-ignite a partisan brawl over judges in the U.S. Senate and across the country. Republicans refused to hold a vote on former President Obama's nominee to fill Scalia's seat.
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Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that he will make the pick next Thursday.
At 49 the youngest of the group, Gorsuch is the most natural replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. He is a strict adherent of originalism, Scalia's belief that the Constitution should be interpreted based on the intent of the Founders. He also has much of Scalia's flair as a writer.
Gorsuch has the type of academic credentials common to high court justices: Columbia, Harvard Law, even Oxford. He clerked for Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy, then practiced law in Washington and did a stint at the Justice Department.
He's been the conservatives' justice-in-waiting for years, and at 54, the former Alabama attorney general comes straight out of central casting. Likely in his corner: U.S. attorney general-designate Jeff Sessions, who preceded Pryor as Alabama's top law enforcement official.
But Pryor is controversial: He once criticized the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion, as "the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history." And he even has taken flak from conservatives concerned about a ruling he joined in favor of transgender rights.
A dark horse among the finalists, Hardiman, 51, isn't unfamiliar to Trump. He sits on the same U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit as the president's sister, Maryanne Trump Barry.
Hardiman's career as a judge is marked by law and order. He has maintained a solidly conservative record on issues involving guns, searches, police officers and prison guards – more so than Scalia, who often sided with criminal defendants against overzealous prosecutors. In that sense, Hardiman is much like Justice Samuel Alito, who came from the same appeals court.