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What To Expect From A Trump Supreme Court Appointee

Matthew P. Hitt, assistant professor of political science at Colorado State University
Bente Birkeland
Capitol Coverage
Matthew P. Hitt, assistant professor of political science at Colorado State University

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. 

Bente Birkeland speaks with Matthew P. Hitt about the Supreme Court and potential nominees.

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.

Copyright 2016 KUNC

Bente Birkeland has covered Colorado politics and government since spring of 2006. She loves the variety and challenge of the state capitol beat and talking to people from all walks of life. Bente's work has aired on NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered, American PublicMedia'sMarketplace, and she was a contributor for WNYC's The Next Big Thing. She has won numerous local and national awards, including best beat reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors. Bente grew up in Minnesota and England, and loves skiing, hiking, and is an aspiring cello player. She lives in Lakewood with her husband.
Bente Birkeland
Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.