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If Trump Doesn't Fill the Vacancy, and 2020 Election Is a Mess: 'The Last Thing We Want Is a 4-4 Tie'

President Trump (AP photo)

The Trump White House is accepting the help of conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List to vet possible nominees to the Supreme Court or other federal judgeships.

A group that usually spends its time arguing religious freedom cases in court is the First Liberty Institute. Its Chief Counsel, Kelly Shackelford, told CBN News it began helping out at the start.

“When President Trump came into office, we established a whole effort on judicial nominations to make sure that there was really extensive research on everybody who’s being looked at up and down the courts, because these are lifetime appointments,” Shackelford emphasized.

Weeding Out Judicial Activists, Political Judges

He said it’s important groups like his help the White House thoroughly check out candidates who’ll be faithful to the U.S. Constitution above all else.

“Who are not going to become politicians and try to put their own beliefs in. We’ve seen a lot of that from judges,” Shackelford stated.

He said they’re after judges, “Who really do have that blindfold on like Lady Justice, who are going to say ‘what is the original meaning of the law? What is the original meaning of the text of the Constitution?’  Not ‘it’s a living, breathing Constitution and we’re going to sort of imbue into it what we think is right for today.’ That’s for the politicians. We’ve had too much of that and it’s caused a lot of politicizing of our courts.” 

Why Senate GOP Did One Thing on a Nominee in 2016 & Another Now

All eyes now are on who’ll replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg and charges Senate Republicans are being hypocritical because they will replace her in this election year, but they wouldn’t take up Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland to replace Antonin Scalia in the 2016 election year.

Shackelford’s take on is, “The times when you have a different president and Senate, party-wise, like we had four years ago with the Merrick Garland situation, they don’t push those people through. Because you’ve got different parties and they say, ‘let’s just wait till the election.’ But in a situation here where the president and the Senate are the same party, they’ve always pushed that person through.”

The First Liberty Institute chief counsel suggested it’s not only Trump’s duty to pick a nominee, but his mandate.

Trump May Have Been Elected Over This

“I think that’s why President Trump won the election. So many people voted on that Scalia seat at the Supreme Court – they wanted the kind of judges that he promised he would appoint,” Shackelford insisted. “So I think it’s only appropriate when a seat opens up now, that he does exactly what the voters voted for him to do. Which was nominate great people to the Court.”

He also pointed back to the 2000 presidential election when the Court made a ruling 5-4 that ended up making George W. Bush rather than Al Gore the 43rd president - 2020 might be no different.

Religious Freedom in a Pandemic Could be on the Line

“There’s all kinds of talk about election contests and lawsuits. We need a full Court to deal with that,” Shackelford argued. “And we also might have some huge cases in the pandemic on religious freedom and the rights of the Church. Those are all percolating up. The last thing we want is a 4-4 tie at the Supreme Court or not having a full Court.“

As for First Liberty Institute’s researching potential judicial nominees rather than just letting the federal government do it, Shackelford pointed out, “You’ve got the White House Counsel’s Office that works for the president that does research. You have the Justice Department that does those things. But they’ve got a lot of things on their plate.”

‘Best Crop We’ve Ever Seen’

Whoever it is doing the researching and vetting potential nominees, Shackelford gives Trump high marks for who’s been picked so far.

“He’s done a phenomenal job,” Shackelford said of the president.  “We have gotten I think it’s 221 now federal judges confirmed, and this is the best crop we’ve ever seen in our country.”


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