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IPFS News Link • Trump Administration

9 Supreme Court finalists in D.C.


It's the largest gathering of top conservative legal minds in the world — and it may offer a preview of the United States newest Supreme Court justice.

Two current Supreme Court justices and nine judges on President-elect Donald Trump's list of potential high court picks are among more than 1,000 people expected at a gathering of conservative lawyers that has suddenly turned into an impromptu job fair for spots in the new administration.

The Federalist Society's national lawyers' convention begins Thursday in Washington as a tribute to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, an early supporter of the group and a hero to many of its 40,000 members.

But since Trump's surprising victory in last week's presidential race, the meeting has turned into a public audition of sorts for nearly half of the list of 21 people that Trump put forward earlier in the year as prospective Supreme Court nominees.

"The mood has changed. Everyone is going to be thinking, 'Maybe someone here is going to be filling Justice Scalia's shoes,' " said Abbe Gluck, a Yale Law professor who is not a member of the group but who will take part in the conference.

Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, familiar figures at these annual meetings, also will speak on Thursday.

The Federalist Society got its start on college campuses when Ronald Reagan was in the White House as a way to counter what its members saw as liberal domination of the nation's law-school faculties. Its influence was pronounced during the presidency of George W. Bush, when its leaders helped rally support for Senate confirmation of Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts. The group was so successful that it spawned copycat liberal organizations.

Speaking at a Federalist Society event in the Bush years was akin to an out-of-town preview of a Broadway show for conservative lawyers who were looking for administration jobs or judgeships, author Mark Tushnet has written.

Over the past eight years, the group provided a forum for opponents of President Barack Obama's court choices and policies, although the Federalist Society itself does not endorse candidates or take policy positions. Some of its leaders backed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's refusal to act on Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to fill Scalia's seat. That political strategy paid unexpected and huge dividends for conservatives with Trump's election.

The society's star again appears to be on the rise. "Anytime there's a major shift in the power of government, it's an enormous opportunity for what is probably the collection of the smartest, most talented and most publicly minded lawyers in the country to roll up their sleeves and help advance the cause of constitutional government," said Leonard Leo, the Federalist Society's executive vice president.

Leo met with Trump in New York on Wednesday and said afterward that Trump has yet to pare down his long list of names of Supreme Court hopefuls.