Attorney James M. Lynch considers whether Donald Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, could influence the President’s Supreme Court choice.
With President Donald Trump’s nomination for the United States Supreme Court set to be announced on Thursday, February 2, 2017, there are numerous reports that President Donald Trump’s sister, 3rdCircuit Court of Appeals Judge Maryanne Trump Barry might influence the final decision. The Politico reports that Judge Barry has been quietly lobbying her brother behind the scenes to choose her fellow 3rd Circuit Judge Thomas Hardiman to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. For this reason, Judge Hardiman is widely considered to be on the final list of judges under consideration along with 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch and 11thCircuit Judge William Pryor.
Before entering Notre Dame University, Judge Hardiman, age 51, graduated from Waltham High School (MA) where his parents ran a taxi business. Judge Hardiman drove a taxi to support himself while he attended Georgetown University Law School. Hardiman was a U.S. District Court judge in Pittsburgh from 2003 until his appointment to the 3rd Circuit in 2006. Noteworthy in Judge Hardiman’s appellate decisions are 2 opinions that are viewed as strongly support of gun ownership and the Second Amendment – particularly the opinion he wrote in Drake v. Filko – and a 2014 opinion striking down, under the First Amendment, a municipal charter provision barring police officers from donating to the union’s political action committee.
Hardiman, Gorsuch and Pryor were all named in the list of 21 judges whom then-candidate Donald Trump announced he was considering for the Scalia vacancy. What cannot be known for certain is whether Judge Barry is actually advocating for Judge Hardiman to President Trump and whether she has the kind of influence with her brother that would tip the scales in Judge Hardiman’s favor. After all, each of the judges on the list are viewed as strongly conservatives, and Judge Barry is a Bill Clinton appointee who is viewed, in many quarters, as a left of center judge. What is also little known, however, is that Trump’s sister also strongly spoke out in favor of another conservative 3rd Circuit nominee to the Supreme Court back in 2006: Justice Samuel Alito. Judge Barry testified very persuasively before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Alito’s behalf so her efforts now in Judge Hardiman’s behalf with her younger brother should not be easily dismissed.
Like Judge Gorsuch, Judge Hardiman’s nomination to the Appeals Court won strong confirmation in the Senate. In fact, Judge Hardiman was confirmed unanimously in a 95-0 vote. The ease with which Hardiman and Gorsuch were approved gives them a clear advantage over Judge Pryor who in 2005 was approved for his current position by the Senate on a 53-45 vote which saw only two Democratic Senators voting to confirm. At a time when the new president has so many battles ahead of him on his legislative agenda, he may not be so willing to use so much political capital on a pick if he already knows it will entail a fight. For that simple reason, it may come down a choice between only Judge Hardiman and Judge Gorsuch.
About the Author: James M. Lynch is an attorney for Lynch & Owens, located in Hingham, Massachusetts.