US & Canada

Trump mulls Supreme Court pick as nomination battle brews

The US Supreme Court. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The vacancy left by Justice Anton Scalia's death last year became a key issue in the US presidential election

President Donald Trump has said he will announce his Supreme Court Justice nominee next week, but Democrats may fight it until the bitter end.

A seat on the high court has been vacant since the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia last year.

Former President Barack Obama's attempt to fill the seat was rebuffed by Republicans, who argued it should be determined by the incoming president.

Three US appeals court judges are among the top picks for the appointment.

According to US media reports, three conservative judges who were appointed by Republican former President George W Bush are under close consideration for the role.

Supreme Court shortlist

Neil Gorsuch:

Mr Gorsuch, who lives in Denver, Colorado, has served on the 10 US Circuit Court of Appeals since 2006. The 49-year-old is the youngest of the group and boasts an academic pedigree typical of Supreme Court Justices (Columbia University, Harvard Law School and at Oxford).

He also clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and previously served as a deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department.

Mr Gorsuch shares the late Justice Antonin Scalia's strict interpretation of the US constitution, which is that it should be followed as the Founding Fathers intended.

Thomas Hardiman:

The Pittsburgh-based judge, 51, has served since 2007 on the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals - the same court in which the president's sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, resides.

Mr Hardiman graduated from Notre Dame and Georgetown Law School, which would make him the court's only justice without an Ivy League degree.

He was the first person in his family to go to college and supported himself in law school by driving a taxi.

Mr Hardiman has supported gun rights and police powers, including a case in which he sided with jails seeking to strip-search all inmates.

William Pryor:

The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals judge, 54, lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He previously served as Alabama's attorney general, preceding Senator Jeff Sessions, Mr Trump's choice for US attorney general.

Mr Pryor has criticised the Supreme Court's 1973 landmark abortion ruling Roe v Wade as "the worst abomination of constitutional law".

He also came under fire from conservatives for siding with a transgender woman who sued for sex discrimination in 2011.

Mr Trump announced his plans in a tweet on Wednesday: "I will be making my Supreme Court pick on Thursday of next week. Thank you!"

The lifelong appointment requires confirmation by the US Senate, which is controlled by Republicans with a 52-48 majority.

But Mr Trump's nominee would need 60 votes if Democrats deploy a filibuster.

Justice Scalia's death last February prompted a battle in Congress that became central to the contentious presidential election between Mr Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Justice Scalia (front row, second from left) was one of five justices that made up the conservative majority on the court

Conservatives are determined to fill the vacant position and restore their 5-4 majority in terms of the nine-seat court's ideological leanings.

But Democrats have pledged to try to block the president's impending nomination after the Republican-led Senate last year refused to consider Mr Obama's nominee, appeals court judge Merrick Garland.

Some Democrats remain concerned that Mr Trump's pick, which would tip the court in favour of conservatives, could lead to the high court rolling back rulings on issues including abortion, civil rights, government regulations and the environment.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said on Tuesday congressional Democrats would be willing to leave the high-profile appointment open if Mr Trump does not appoint a "mainstream nominee".