Is the Federalist Society backing Gorsuch over Hardiman? [updated]

Crunch time is here, and Judge Thomas Hardiman is finding out who his friends are. Unless I’m very mistaken, he’s just found out who a prominent conservative opponent of his nomination is, too.

Last night, Jennifer Hansler wrote this ABC News story, headlined “Trump Supreme Court Adviser Praises Judge Neil Gorsuch as Potential Heir to Scalia’s Legacy,” featuring the following comments by Federalist Society leader Leonard Leo:

“He [Gorsuch] has very, very distinguished background,” Leo said. “He has probably 200 or so published opinions as an appeals clerk judge. They are extremely eloquently written, they’re incisive, understandable, clear, opinionated.”

The president values clarity and eloquence — qualities he admired in the late Justice Antonin Scalia — in his potential nominees, according to Leo.

“If you want to move the country’s jurisprudence in the right direction, you need people who are clear in their thinking and in their writing and who are going to be in the position to educate the broader legal community and the public at large about what’s at stake in these cases,” he said.

Among other traits Trump wants in a potential justice: someone who is “extraordinarily talented,” who is “going to be respected by all” and “who’s going to stick to his guns.”

Hardiman is nowhere mentioned. That alone is telling. But I read the substance of Leo’s comments, with their focus on eloquence and clarity and extraordinary talent, as a concerted effort to help Gorsuch’s prospects and hurt Hardiman’s [that is, to help Gorsuch’s prospects of being chosen over Hardiman].

If you thought Hardiman’s own long Federalist Society track record would keep its leaders at least neutral now, I’d say you were mistaken.

UPDATE: Two days after this post, on Saturday, Leo praised Hardiman to CNN:

“Tom Hardiman is an interesting mix of two worlds,” said Leonard Leo, an adviser to Trump on the Supreme Court search. “On the one hand he is very much in the mold of Justice Scalia, well-schooled on the doctrines of originalism and textualism, and he is very experienced. And yet, at the same time, Judge Hardiman hails from a family of relatively modest means, from an industrial working class city in Western Pennsylvania.”


6 thoughts on “Is the Federalist Society backing Gorsuch over Hardiman? [updated]

  1. Greg

    I don’t think it’s fair to equate advocacy and support for one potential nominee to opposing another or trying to hurt the other’s chances. Stated differently, I don’t think saying “Chinese food is delicious” is the same thing as saying “don’t eat pizza.”

    Clearly the Fed Soc establishment types are making their preference for Gorsuch known, but I don’t read that as trying to sink Hardiman.

  2. Matthew Stiegler Post author

    Fair point. But I doubt it’s an accident that Leo praises Gorsuch on the precise grounds that Gorsuch supporters use to distinguish him from his competition. I read this less like saying ‘Chinese food is delicious,’ and more like saying, ‘I like Android phones because you can replace the battery.’ In my view, when your message focuses on clarity and eloquence and distinguished background, you are signalling that Gorsuch is the right choice, not just a good choice, and I was surprised by that.

    You say, “Clearly the Fed Soc establishment types are making their preference for Gorsuch known,” so maybe we’re not really disagreeing here.

  3. Matthew Stiegler Post author

    Greg, I think you read my original post to mean that Fed Soc dislikes Hardiman, which is not what I meant and the opposite of what I believe. My only point was that they appear to be signalling a preference for Gorsuch over Hardiman. I updated the post to try to clarify that.

  4. Rufus K.

    Leo is quoted in the Politico article you cited in the previous post as saying Hardiman is “an extraordinarily talented and smart jurist” who has “a very direct and understandable writing style.” Perhaps you are right, but I don’t read the difference between the praise as putting a thumb on the scale.

Comments are closed.