The Donald’s real estate attorney apparently gave him a couple names of federal judges to throw out as his potential picks for SCOTUS since the news of Scalia’s passing. However, as with everything he recommends, there are some controversies about the two people he proposed – Diana Sykes and Bill Pryor.
Judge Sykes is currently serving on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago. She’s done some honorable conservative work, including leading an injunction against the City of Chicago’s ban on firing ranges. She was considered for SCOTUS under President Bush, who appointed her to the Seventh Circuit.
However, in 2013 she wrote the majority opinion for the Seventh Circuit in a ruling that made it very difficult for states to defund Planned Parenthood (Planned Parenthood of Indiana v. Commissioner of the Indiana State Dept. of Health). Sykes wrote that by defunding Planned Parenthood, the State of Indiana violated a “patients’ statutory right to obtain medical care from the qualified provider of their choice”. Sykes and the court ignored the State of Indiana’s argument that acceptance of federal Medicaid funding did not create a new individual right by which a patient could force the State’s compliance with federal conditions for Medicaid reimbursement. SCOTUS refused to take the case, allowing the Sykes’ ruling to stand, and creating a new hurdle for any state to overcome in order to defund Planned Parenthood.
Judge Bill Pryor is currently serving on the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta. In 2003, Pryor was the Attorney General of Alabama who prosecuted Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore for having the audacity to refuse to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Supreme Court building. By refusing to have the monument removed, Chief Justice Moore was violating a federal court order. Bill Pryor prosecuted Moore for continuing to acknowledge God in violation of federal court order. Moore refused to answer that he would not acknowledge God, leading to Moore’s removal from the court.
As with Sykes and many other federal judges, Pryor’s judicial history is a mixed bag of conservative victories and failures. As a conservative judge, he wrote the majority opinion upholding a Georgia voter ID law and another enjoining the Secretary of HHS from enforcing a contraception mandate against a Catholic television network. But he also wrote a majority opinion overturning convictions of four drug traffickers caught in Panamanian territorial waters, ruling that Congress was constrained by “customary international law” in how it wrote laws dealing with known drug traffickers in international waters.
These cases alone may not prevent either Sykes or Pryor from being considered for a SCOTUS appointment in the future. But they would certainly require that such a candidate be seriously vetted before being nominated. The next judge to take a seat on the Supreme Court needs to have a stellar career record of defending Constitutional conservatism in the same manner as Justice Scalia.
The President who selects our next Supreme Court Justice must be a person with a deep understanding of how our judiciary operates. This isn’t reality TV or Wrestlemania – this is the serious business of the future of our liberty, as provided for by our Constitution.