Justice Anthony Kennedy’s announcement on Wednesday that he will retire at the end of July gives US President Donald Trump his second opportunity to deepen his imprint on the nation’s highest court after restoring its 5-4 conservative majority last year with the selection of Neil Gorsuch.
Here are five of the top contenders as seen by Reuters, and the others on Trump’s list of nominees for the lifetime appointment.
Brett Kavanaugh - Maryland US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
Kavanaugh, 53, was appointed to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2003 by Republican President George W Bush.
Contentious confirmation hearings in the Senate delayed his confirmation until 2006.
Kavanaugh worked for Bush during the recount of the 2000 presidential election result.
He then headed the administration’s search for potential judicial nominees.
Prior to that, he helped draft the “Starr report” recommending the impeachment of Democratic President Bill Clinton.
Amy Coney Barrett - Indiana 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals
Trump in May 2017 appointed 46-year-old Barrett to the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
She was confirmed by the Senate in October 2017.
She was most recently a professor at Notre Dame Law School in Indiana.
During one of her committee confirmation hearings, Senate Democrats questioned Barrett about her Catholicism and past writings in which she said Catholic judges were in a “legal bind” in cases related to abortion and the death penalty. The questioning led the conservative group Judicial Crisis Network to produce a digital ad attacking the Democrats.
Thomas Hardiman - Pennsylvania 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals
Hardiman, 52, was appointed in 2007 to the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia by then-President George W Bush.
Since then, Hardiman has drawn criticism from liberals for a dissenting opinion in a gun control case, which the Alliance for Justice legal advocacy group said suggested he would take an “exceptional broad view of the Second Amendment” to the US Constitution, which gives Americans the right to keep and bear firearms.
Raymond Kethledge - Michigan 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals
Kethledge, 51, was named by George W Bush in 2006 to the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati and confirmed in 2008.
Prior to that, he spent most of his career in private practice.
One Kethledge ruling that gained attention was against the US Internal Revenue Service in a case brought by conservative Tea Party groups that said the agency had targeted them because of their political views.
Amul Thapar - Kentucky 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals
Thapar, 49, is a judge on the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals, nominated by Trump and confirmed in May 2017.
He was previously a judge on the US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
Thapar is best known for sentencing in 2014 an 84-year-old nun to three years in prison for breaking into a Tennessee military facility used to store enriched uranium for nuclear bombs.
The nun was convicted along with two other anti-nuclear activists.
Other possible nominees on Trump’s 25-person list:
- Keith Blackwell - Supreme Court of Georgia
- Charles Canady - Supreme Court of Florida
- Steven Colloton - 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals
- Allison Eid - 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals
- Britt Grant - Supreme Court of Georgia
- Raymond Gruender - 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals
- Joan Larsen - 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals
- Mike Lee - Republican US senator from Utah
- Thomas Lee - Supreme Court of Utah
- Edward Mansfield - Supreme Court of Iowa
- Federico Moreno - US District Court for the Southern District of Florida
- Kevin Newsom - 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals
- William Pryor - 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals
- Margaret Ryan - US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
- David Stras - 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals
- Diane Sykes - 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals
- Timothy Tymkovich - 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals
- Robert Young - Supreme Court of Michigan, retired
- Don Willett - 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals
- Patrick Wyrick - Supreme Court of Oklahoma