President of the United States
With the advice and consent of the United States Senate, the President of the United States appoints the members of the Supreme Court of the United States, which is the highest court of the federal judiciary of the United States. Following his victory in the 2016 presidential election, Republican Donald Trump took office as president on January 20, 2017, and Trump faced an immediate vacancy on the Supreme Court due to the February 2016 death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump released two lists of potential nominees to the Supreme Court. After taking office, Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to succeed Scalia on January 31, 2017.
Trump began his term in January 2017 with a vacancy to be filled as a result of the February 2016 death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the subsequent opinion of Senate Republicans that the new president should appoint Scalia's replacement. Three of the Court's justices—Ruth Bader Ginsburg (born 1933), Anthony Kennedy (born 1936) and Stephen Breyer (born 1938)—are or will soon turn 80, a fact that has stoked speculation that additional vacancies may occur during Trump's four-year presidential term.
The Supreme Court is composed of the following eight justices:
|Name||Age||Serving since||Appointed by||Alma Mater|
|Roberts, JohnJohn Roberts
|62||2005||George W. Bush||Harvard|
|Kennedy, AnthonyAnthony Kennedy||80||1988||Ronald Reagan||Harvard|
|Thomas, ClarenceClarence Thomas||68||1991||George H. W. Bush||Yale|
|Ginsburg, Ruth BaderRuth Bader Ginsburg||84||1993||Bill Clinton||Columbia|
|Breyer, StephenStephen Breyer||78||1994||Bill Clinton||Harvard|
|Alito, SamuelSamuel Alito||66||2006||George W. Bush||Yale|
|Sotomayor, SoniaSonia Sotomayor||62||2009||Barack Obama||Yale|
|Kagan, ElenaElena Kagan||56||2010||Barack Obama||Harvard|
On February 13, 2016, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead while vacationing at Cibolo Creek Ranch near Marfa, Texas. Scalia's death marked just the second time in sixty years that a sitting Supreme Court Justice died. It led to a rare Supreme Court nomination during the last year of a presidency.
Mitch McConnell (Senate majority leader) stated the new President should replace Scalia, while President Obama stated that he planned to nominate someone to replace Scalia on the Supreme Court. On February 23, the eleven Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee signed a letter to McConnell stating their intention to withhold consent on any nominee made by President Obama, and that no hearings would occur until after January 20, 2017, when the new president took office. On March 16, 2016, Obama nominated then-Chief Judge Merrick Garland (of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit), to replace Scalia. After Garland's nomination, McConnell reiterated his position that the Senate would not consider any Supreme Court nomination until a new president took office. Garland's nomination expired on January 3, 2017, with the 114th Senate having taken no action on the nomination.
During his 2016 presidential campaign, while Garland remained before the Senate, Trump released two lists of potential nominees. On May 18, 2016, Trump released a short list of eleven judges for nomination to the Scalia vacancy. In September 2016, Trump released a second list of ten possible nominees, this time including three minorities. Both lists were assembled by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. Days after Trump's inauguration, Politico named three individuals as the front-runners for Scalia's position: Neil Gorsuch, Thomas Hardiman and Bill Pryor, with Trump reportedly later narrowing his list down to Gorsuch and Hardiman. At the time of the nomination, Gorsuch, Hardiman, and Pryor were all federal appellate judges who were appointed by President George W. Bush. Trump and White House Counsel Don McGahn interviewed those three individuals as well as Judge Amul Thapar of the U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Kentucky in the weeks before the nomination. President Trump announced Gorsuch as his nominee on January 31.
The following is a list of individuals who have been mentioned in various news accounts as the most likely potential nominees for a Supreme Court appointment under Trump, or were included on one of the two lists Trump released during the 2016 campaign: