Multiple news outlets, including CBS News legal correspondent Jan Crawford, are reporting that President Trump has narrowed his search for a Supreme Court nominee to three or four candidates, one of them Third Circuit Judge Thomas Hardiman.
Naturally this has led to another flurry [make that a torrent] of Hardiman profiles.
The most substantive of them is by Amy Howe on Scotusblog, link here, and it warrants reading in full. She concludes that Hardiman is a “solid, although hardly knee-jerk, conservative who was active in Republican politics before joining the federal bench,” and notes, “During his nearly ten years as a federal appeals court judge, Hardiman has weighed in on a variety of hot-button topics important to Republicans, and his votes in these cases have consistently been conservative,” although some of his rulings are “harder to pigeonhole.” Beyond analyzing his decisions, Howe also sheds some new biographical light:
Hardiman’s wife Lori, with whom he has three children, is from a well-connected Democratic family in Pennsylvania, but Hardiman registered to vote as a Republican in 1994. Hardiman has headed the local Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and he has also served as a “Big Brother” himself. A 2003 article in the Pittsburgh City Paper raised questions about Hardiman’s role in defending a challenge to a Ten Commandments plaque on public property, as well as his role in opposing housing discrimination cases. Hardiman is a fluent Spanish speaker who studied in Mexico; while living in Washington he worked with Ayuda, a legal aid clinic representing poor Spanish-speaking immigrants, on (among others) domestic violence and political asylum cases. During his Senate confirmation hearings, he described one of his immigration cases for Ayuda as “one of the most important cases I have ever handled.”
Meanwhile, CNN’s Ariane de Vogue writes:
Hardiman of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, for example, is almost a decade younger at 51 and offers Trump a compelling personal story.Hardiman hails from a blue collar family in Massachusetts and was the first in his family to graduate from college, driving a cab to help pay his bills. Hardiman is not product of the Ivy League having attended Notre Dame and Georgetown.Those close to him think that Trump might appreciate Hardiman’s dry wit and the fact that while he is persuasive he doesn’t take over a room.Like Sykes, Hardiman referred to Heller several times in a dissent he penned in 2013 in a case concerning gun licenses.The opposition of Hardiman has been relatively muted and Ian Millhiser of the progressive Think Progress has written that he is “one of the more ideologically enigmatic names on Trump’s list.” Such a sentiment could scare away conservatives who do not want a dark horse candidate.Conservatives believe that George H.W. Bush missed an opportunity to shape the court when he named a relative unknown — David Souter — to the bench. Rather than helping create a conservative legacy, Souter became a reliable vote for the left. Some might question whether Hardiman has a robust enough record to scour and get Republicans excited.If Trump needed a personal reference, however, he’d only need to reach out to his sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, who sits on the same appellate bench.
I think any Souter comparison is preposterous.
On The Daily Beast, Jay Michaelson has a post entitled, Trump’s Final Supreme Court Candidates Are All Arch Conservatives,” and he says this about Hardiman:
Like Pryor and Sykes, Judge Thomas Hardiman has a very narrow view of civil liberties. He affirmed a holding that there is no constitutional right to video record police officers. He wrote an opinion (affirmed by the Supreme Court) affirming the strip-searching of all arrestees in jail, even those there for minor traffic offenses. He would have allowed a Pennsylvania school district to bar students from wearing a bracelet saying “I ♥ Boobies” to raise awareness about breast cancer.
Still, compared with Pryor at least, Hardiman is a more conventional pick insofar as he hasn’t said outrageous things about hot-button social issues. Instead, progressives have had to read between the lines: Hardiman has spoken at several events hosted by the conservative Federalist Society, for example. Conservatives seem to love him.
In one high-profile case, he sided with the NFL over players who had not yet developed brain damage, but who wanted to be included in the NFL’s settlement in case they did later – but that case was about an actual football, not a political one.
Hardiman is thus a safer pick, if only because he has less of a record.
(The “seem to love him” link goes to one of my earlier posts about conservative reactions to Hardiman’s inclusion on the original shortlist.) Michaelson also writes:
[I]f there’s an endgame here, other than the nuclear option of eliminating the filibuster altogether, it will have to involve a consensus pick, someone in the mode of Anthony Kennedy or David Souter—a moderate Republican whose position on abortion (in many people’s minds, the only issue the Supreme Court faces) is unknown, but whose track record is reliably conservative without being extreme.
None of the five current candidates fit that bill.
‘Reliably conservative without being extreme,’ largely unknown position on abortion: that sure sounds like Hardiman to me.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said yesterday that Trump would have “an update on a nominee” in “the next week or so.”
UPDATE: Josh Gerstein just added another take on Gorsuch, Pryor, and Hardiman at Politico, here.
UPDATE 2: Philly.com just posted this Hardiman profile by Chris Mondics and Mari Schaefer, quoting two prominent Schnader lawyers:
“I know him to be a very smart, hardworking, diligent judge,” said Nancy Winkelman, an appellate lawyer at Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis.
Hardiman, a graduate of Notre Dame University and the Georgetown University Law Center, came from humble beginnings. Originally from Massachusetts, his father was a cab driver, and Hardiman also drove a cab to help pay for law school. He was the first person in his family to attend college.
After law school he worked for a short time at mega firm Skadden Arps before moving to Pittsburgh, where his wife is from. There he joined the firm of Reed Smith, another globe-straddling firm that specializes in representing corporate clients.
Paul Titus, a Pittsburgh-based lawyer for Schnader Harrison, long time friend of Hardiman’s and a former colleague, said Hardiman did substantial amounts of pro bono work while he was in private practice.
“If you look among circuit judges who are Republican in their 40s and 50s, it’s not surprising that his name would come up,” Titus said. “He is a very intelligent, careful and thoughtful lawyer. A very decent person.”
UPDATE 3: coverage of the nomination endgame is intensifying: Above the Law (another dazzling Lat effort), Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Bloomberg, and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (also excellent). H/t How Appealing. The latest stories say Raymond Kethledge is still in the hunt while Pryor continues to fade. Lat writes:
Who has the edge as between Judge Gorsuch and Judge Hardiman? That’s tough to tell based just on their records, and it will probably come down to how much they connected personally with the Donald.
Sounds right to me. [On second thought I think Gorsuch isn’t as likely as everyone thinks.]