Who are the top names to replace Justice Kennedy?


It's not yet known who President Trump will choose to replace retiring Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, but already some names are getting more attention than others.

Shortly after Kennedy announced that he would be leaving the bench, the White House published a list of 25 conservatives that Trump might select. On that list, five names stand out as the front-runners.

Amy Coney Barrett

A graduate of Notre Dame Law School – where she later became a professor – Barrett was nominated to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals by Mr. Trump last year. The Senate then confirmed her to the bench in a 55-to-43 vote. Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly, Joe Manchin, and Tim Kaine all voted for her confirmation, as did every Republican senator.

Barrett is a favorite of conservatives who want a right-leaning woman on the Supreme Court, since all the current woman justices are liberals. The youngest of all the top contenders -- 46 years old -- she could conceivably serve on the Supreme Court for perhaps four decades if she is nominated and confirmed. But Barrett's short tenure as a judge could work against her if Trump decided he wants a more experienced jurist.

Thomas Hardiman

Hardiman, a circuit judge on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, nearly became Trump's pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia in 2017. Trump ended up picking Neil Gorsuch, but Hardiman was the runner-up.

Hardiman has been on the Court of Appeals since 2007 and was confirmed by a 95-to-0 vote by the Senate. A graduate of Georgetown Law, he worked as a taxi driver in Massachusetts as a teenager, and is seen as an experienced and reliably conservative jurist.

Brett Kavanaugh

A favorite of some powerful voices within the White House, Kavanaugh is conservative, relatively young, and experienced, having served on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals since 2006. Before that, he worked for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr in the 1990s and helped author the Starr Report, which is famous for cataloguing President Clinton's sexual impropriety. He then worked for George W. Bush's legal team during the 2000 Florida recount.

The Yale-educated Kavanaugh was confirmed to his current position in a contentious 57-to-36 Senate vote after Democrats stalled his nomination for several years. But Kavanaugh's right-leaning politics could imperil his chances at confirmation if moderates decide he's too ideological to replace Kennedy.

Raymond Kethledge

Kethledge clerked for Justice Kennedy after graduating the University of Michigan's Law School. He has served on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals since 2008, although his nomination was initially blocked by Michigan's two Democratic senators at the time, Debbie Stabinow and Carl Levin. A conservative favorite, he is also the author of the book "Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude."

Like Kavanaugh, Kethledge is in is early 50s, meaning that he could spend decades on the Supreme Court if he is nominated and confirmed. Should Trump send him to the Senate for confirmation, Democrats are likely to bring up his controversial rulings involving unions and data collection by the government.

Amul Thapar

The 49-year-old Thapar is a protégé of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and would be the first Indian-American on the Supreme Court. He's served on Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals since 2017, and before that was a district judge in Kentucky.

A graduate of Boston College and Berkeley Law, was an assistant U.S. attorney and then U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. He was a contender to replace Scalia in 2017, and Trump interviewed him for the post.

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