Two female judges have emerged as serious contenders for President Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Judges Barbara Lagoa of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and Amy Coney Barrett of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals were mentioned favorably by President Trump in a phone call with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Friday night, according to multiple reports. Also discussed was Judge Amul Thapar of the 6th Circuit in Kentucky, a favorite of Mr. McConnell.
Judge Barrett was strongly considered by the president previously for the high court in 2019, but Judge Lagoa has risen more recently as a contender. The president included her in a list of 20 new potential nominees that he released earlier this month.
A first generation Cuban-American from Florida, Judge Lagoa, 52, is said to have caught the president’s attention for several reasons. She’s a conservative, relatively young, hails from a battleground state with 29 electoral votes that Mr. Trump badly needs to win, and her nomination could bring more Hispanic women to his side.
She’s also a former assistant U.S. Attorney who served as Florida’s first Hispanic state Supreme Court justice in 2019.
What’s more, the Senate confirmed Judge Lagoa for the 11th Circuit seat last November by a lopsided vote of 80-15.
Judge Lagoa’s parents fled Fidel Castro’s Cuba in the mid-1960s. She referred to their experience when she was sworn in to Florida’s high court in May 2019.
“Many of those in this room are the children and grandchildren of individuals who fled from dictatorship,” she said at the time. “Through hard work, education, faith, and a strong community, they succeeded. Because of the shared experiences of our parents and grandparents many of us in this room have a special appreciation for the rule of law. We understand what it means when individual liberties, respect for private property, and basic human rights are abandoned by a government. And this is why the oath I just took is not just words on a piece of paper to me. Unlike the country my parents fled, we are a nation of laws and not of men.”
Judge Barrett is a former law professor at Notre Dame University (located in Indiana, the home state of Vice President Mike Pence). Axios reported in 2019, when the president was looking for a nominee to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, that Mr. Trump told others privately of Judge Barrett, “I’m saving her for Ginsburg.”
Judge Barrett is Catholic, and her religion was raised as an issue at her confirmation hearing in 2016 by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat.
“The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s a concern,” Mrs. Feinstein said during the hearing.
Judge Barrett replied, “It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they arise from faith or anywhere else, on the law.”
Republican strategist John Feehery commented on Twitter Saturday, “When Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett, just watch how anti-Catholic the Democrat becomes. It will be breathtaking, even for the occasional Mass attender.”