Rice U. political scientist available to discuss Trump’s Supreme Court choice

Rice University
Office of Public Affairs / News & Media Relations

Editor’s note: Paul Brace is available for phone interviews only. He can be reached directly at 832-628-5285.


David Ruth

Amy McCaig

Rice U. political scientist available to discuss Trump’s Supreme Court choice

HOUSTON – (July 9, 2018) – As President Donald Trump prepares to announce his choice to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Rice University political scientist Paul Brace is available to discuss the scenario.

“With a GOP majority in the Senate to confirm his choice, President Trump holds a seemingly strong hand,” Brace said. “This majority, however, is razor-thin. Moreover, this confirmation will compete with growing negative headlines concerning the Trump White House, including the Russia investigation, continuing scandals concerning his cabinet and others, North Korea and the negative reactions to Trump’s tariffs. Hence, while he might ultimately prevail, this is not a good time for a protracted battle or, even worse, a defeated nomination on the eve of midterm elections that could drastically alter confirmation politics.”

Brace said any of the potential court nominees being considered by Trump can easily be sold to his enthusiastic political base as a win, but added that some of these candidates offer confirmation risks which the president seems unlikely to accept. As of Monday afternoon, Brace said judges Thomas Hardiman and Brett Kavanaugh have emerged as the most likely contenders for the high court.

Hardiman, judge on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, has a compelling backstory. He worked as a taxi driver as a student and was the first in his family to graduate from college, Brace said. He has also served alongside Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, on the Third Circuit.

“He is popular among gun rights activists for his dissent in a 2013 New Jersey case involving a handgun law in which he declared, ‘Because the need for self-defense naturally exists both outside and inside the home, I would hold that the Second Amendment applies outside the home,'” he said.

Brace said that Kavanaugh, who has sat on the D.C. Circuit Court since 2006, is the “most establishment choice.” A former clerk for Kennedy, Kavanaugh also has extensive ties to the George Bush family, which Brace said could hurt his candidacy because of a long paper trail from the Bush White House and his time as a lawyer for Whitewater independent counsel Ken Starr.

“Reviewing this extensive paper trail could slow down a confirmation process that Republicans hope to have wrapped up before the November midterms,” Brace said.

Other potential nominees:

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and clerked for the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, is “a superstar among the religious right,” Brace said.

“Her academic writings would likely fuel questions about whether Barrett would be willing to cast a vote to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Brace said. “Such concerns would likely loom large at her confirmation hearings and offer prospects for a long and protracted battle. The president’s taste for conflict, while normally strong, is likely attenuated by the confluence of negative headlines and the countdown to the midterm election.”

Judge Raymond Kethledge, another former Kennedy clerk who serves on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, has “made a name for himself in conservative circles,” Brace said.

“His opinions have been admired by conservatives, but some have expressed reservations concerning his opinions regarding immigration,” he said.

Brace is the Clarence L. Carter Professor of Political Science in Rice’s School of Social Sciences. He is widely published, primarily in the areas of state politics and judicial decision-making. He comments regularly on presidential politics and the judiciary. For more information on Brace, visit http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~pbrace/.

To schedule an interview with Brace, contact him directly at 832-628-5285. Brace is available for phone interviews only.


For more information, contact Amy McCaig, senior media relations specialist at Rice, at 217-417-2901 or amym@rice.edu.

This news release can be found online at https://news.rice.edu/.

Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews.

Related Materials:

Paul Brace bio: http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~pbrace/.

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About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.