The Week Ahead – January 30, 2017

The Supreme Court is currently in recess and will not meet again until its February 17 conference, but President Trump is expected to announce his Supreme Court nominee on Tuesday. In an interview with Sean Hannity at FOX News, Trump hinted that he was closing in on his nominee selection, stating: “I have made my decision pretty much in my mind, yes. That’s subject to change at the last moment, but I think this will be a great choice.” And on Monday, he announced that he had made his decision. There are three judges widely believed to be on his short list: Judge William Pryor of the Eleventh Circuit, Judge Neil Hardiman of the Third Circuit, and Judge Thomas Gorsuch of the Tenth Circuit.

Senate Democrats, however, are threatening to filibuster, regardless of who the nominee is, citing the Republicans’ refusal to even consider President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland. As Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon put it: “This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat…. We will use every lever in our power to stop this.”

Last week, Trump said that if Senate Democrats were resistant to confirming his nominee, he would encourage Senate Republicans to deploy the so-called “nuclear option”; in this scenario, the Senate Republican majority could eliminate the ability for the minority party to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee by changing Senate rules on a majority vote. Senate Democrats deployed the measure in 2013, when they changed Senate rules and eliminated the need for a supermajority for all federal judicial nominees – except for those nominated to the Supreme Court.

Burgess Everett at Politico describes the potential implications of the nuclear option, stating, “Eliminating the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees would shred the fabric of the chamber, making it much easier for future presidents to confirm ideologically extreme nominees and potentially leading to the death of the 60-vote threshold for legislation.”

In the meantime, while SCOTUS is in recess, several justices will be using the time to speak at events in the upcoming week; SCOTUS Map provides a directory these events here.

Today, January 30, Justice Sotomayor spoke at the University of Michigan’s 2017 Presidential Bicentennial Colloquia, along with Justice Susanne Baer of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany. Martha S. Jones, co-director of Michigan Law’s Program in Race, Law & History, invited the justices to participate in the event to discuss how their diverse backgrounds have influenced their contributions to legal practice; Sotomayor is the first Latina woman to serve on the Court and Baer is the first openly lesbian justice on Germany’s High Court. Sotomayor urged the University to increase the number of African-American students attending, noting that the country “can’t reach equality in a larger society” without equality in education.

On February 1, Justice Ginsburg will speak at Washington and Lee University School of Law and the Virginia Military Institute. Ginsburg will be participating in an on-stage interview at VMI. The event will be open to the public.


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