What To Expect From A Trump Supreme Court Appointee

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Originally published on November 21, 2016 10:48 am

One of the first items on President-elect Donald Trump’s to-do list when he takes office will be to nominate a Supreme Court justice. While campaigning, Trump released a list of possible nominees, which included three judges from Colorado: Chief Judge Timothy Michael Tymkovich and Judge Neil McGill Gorsuch, both serving on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Justice Allison Hartwell Eid of the Colorado Supreme Court. 

Matthew P. Hitt, an assistant professor of political science at Colorado State University, studies the court. Here are three takeaways about the current state of the Supreme Court, and what it might look like under the Trump presidency:

In modern times, a president’s appointee is more significant than ever.

Hitt: As life expectancies have gone up, each appointment has now decades-long ramifications in terms of law and social policy. Now, some presidents like Jimmy Carter are so unfortunate to go four years with not a single appointment. But President Obama was looking to have three appointments in eight years, if not for really strong obstruction.

Republican voters were more energized by the balance of power on the Supreme Court compared to Democrats.

Hitt: Exit polling has been showing that of voters who thought the Supreme Court was the most important issue to them, actually 21% in one exit poll said this, these voters went 55-35% for Donald Trump. So clearly that motivation of reshaping the court definitely inspired a number of Republican voters in this election. It’s harder to get fired up about protecting what you already have.

It’s not clear whom Trump will select.

Hitt: There are many people on that list who did not attend an elite Ivy League law school, which would be change as well, some might say a breath of fresh air from the current dominance of Harvard and Yale Law School on the court. I think the list was put out there to mollify evangelical and conservative voters and politicians, who are concerned about the direction of his appointees, but I think he has indicated that he views the list as a guideline, as a suggestion.

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