Donald Trump

Can Trump Be Trusted on Supreme Court Appointments?

The GOP candidate releases an expanded of potential SCOTUS picks.


Todd Krainin

In May Donald Trump released a list featuring the names of 11 federal and state judges that he said he would consider nominating to the U.S. Supreme Court if he's elected president. On Friday Trump expanded that list, adding 10 more names to the mix. According to Trump, "this list is definitive and I will choose only from it in picking future Justices of the United States Supreme Court."

From the standpoint of the conservative legal movement, it's a solid list. It's also not bad from the standpoint of the libertarian legal movement, as it contains such names as 7th Circuit Judge Diane Sykes, the author of an important opinion protecting the First Amendment right to record police officers in public; 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch, the author of a recent dissent attacking judicial deference to government regulatory agencies; and Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, the author of what I've described as "one of the most libertarian legal decisions I've ever read."

But since this is Donald Trump we're discussing here, the real issue is not the caliber of the list. The real issue is whether or not Trump can be trusted to keep his word and actually stick to the list if he's elected. Can Trump be trusted? Let me put it this way. Throughout U.S. history, presidents have overwhelmingly nominated the sort of justices that they think will vote to uphold their respective agendas. Thus Franklin Roosevelt nominated friends of the New Deal while George W. Bush nominated friends of the so-called war on terror.

What is Trump's agenda? Among other things, Trump has come out in favor of the government censoring the internet, shuttering houses of worship, depriving religious minorities of due process and equal protection, forcibly confiscating private property, gutting libel laws in order to make it easier to silence journalists, ordering U.S. forces to commit torture and other war crimes, and imposing a nationwide "stop and frisk" scheme in order to "take the gun away." For those of you keeping score at home, that means that Trump—at a minimum—has endorsed government infringements on the principles contained in the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, the Eighth Amendment, the 10th Amendment, and the constitutional doctrine of limited and enumerated executive powers.

Now consider Trump's SCOTUS list. The most impressive names on that list are all judges who have distinguished themselves by voting to enforce constitutional and/or statutory limits against illegitimate and overreaching government power. Is Trump likely to nominate the sort of justices who will enforce such limits against Trump's own power? I sure wouldn't bet on that.

Related: Is SCOTUS a Good Reason to Support Trump? Libertarian and Conservative Legal Experts Weigh In