Texan Not Seen Joining the Supreme Court

This week's resignation of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will change the court's slant on social issues for decades to come, legal experts tell Newsradio 1200 WOAI.

"I was prepared to say this was a big week for the five big cases decided by the court but its much bigger now because the centrist's resignation will leave a big hole in the court for a long time," Professor Gerald Treece at the South Texas College of Law says.

He says Justice Kennedy was the buffer between the four liberal justices and the four conservative ones. In the end, he often sided with the majority.

With Kennedy gone, social conservative groups are eager for a conservative replacement that will tilt the high court's rulings.   Jonathan Saenz is the President of Texas Values. 

"Justice Kennedy's retirement breathes new life into the pro-life and religious freedom movements across the country. We expect President Trump to appoint, and the Senate to quickly confirm, another constitutional conservative to the bench." he says.

Others are wondering if, with a new conservative on the court, recent rulings like gay marriage and abortion could be re-heard.

St. Mary's Professor of Constitutional Law Michael Ariens says that's not going to happen.

"The court is not going to change on gay marriage, with or without him.  That ship has sailed,” he explains.     "The court's decision will likely remain.  It's not something the court is going to look back at in the near future."

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy's successor this fall.  President Donald Trump has already signaled that he will choose a judge from the list the White House has previously circulated to replace Justice Kennedy.

That list includes Texas Judge Don Willett, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Ariens says, while likable, it's unlikely he'll get the nod.

"There has only been one Texan on the Supreme Court," he says, pointing to Justice Tom Clark.  "So as a Texan it would be nice to see another Texan on the court."

Another Texan was considered when Justice Gorsuch was nominated last year, and that was Senator Ted Cruz, who is the state's former Solicitor General

But political analyst Kammi King of the University of North Texas, says that won't happen.

"You might think he would be a political insider (who would be more likely to be confirmed by the Senate)," King said.  "The reality is he has some political baggage, and some fences he needs to mend."

Treece predicts the nominee will look a lot like Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was appointed last year.  It will likely be someone who is young, male and conservative."

And that's bad news for people who don’t like President Trump.  Because Donald Trump will have this incredible effect on America and American law."


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