2 from Mich. on Trump’s Supreme Court list

Detroit News staff and wire reports

Donald Trump’s list of 11 potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia includes a Michigan Supreme Court justice who clerked for Scalia two decades ago.


Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Raymond Kethledge of Michigan were on Trump’s list of jurists he’d consider appointing if elected president.

Trump released the 11 names Wednesday as he works to unite a fractured Republican Party and earn the trust of establishment Republicans who question his electability in the general election and conservatives in his party still weary of his commitment to their cause.

Larsen is relatively new to the judiciary, having just been appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court in October by Gov. Rick Snyder.

“I’m focused on doing my job for the people of Michigan,” she said Wednesday. “I love being a judge. I love this court. I love the work of this court. And that’s where my focus lies. But I’m interested in doing it.”

Larsen filled a vacancy left by former Justice Mary Beth Kelly, who stepped down to return to private law practice.

“Justice Larsen is an outstanding judicial scholar, which is why the governor appointed her and likely why she has garnered national attention,” Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton said Wednesday. “She is an asset to our state and we hope she remains on the Michigan Supreme Court for a very long time.”

A former University of Michigan law professor, Larsen’s legal background includes clerking in the 1994-95 term for Scalia, whose February death has left a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Republicans who control the U.S. Senate and confirmation of high court justices have vowed to block Democratic President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, for the remaining eight months of Obama’s presidency.

Trump’s other picks include Steven Colloton of Iowa, Allison Eid of Colorado and Raymond Gruender of Missouri, Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, Thomas Lee of Utah, William Pryor of Alabama, David Stras of Minnesota, Diane Sykes of Wisconsin and Don Willett of Texas.

The billionaire businessman had previously named Pryor and Sykes as examples of kind of justices he would choose.

In a statement, Trump said the list “is representative of the kind of constitutional principles I value” and said that, as president, he would use it “as a guide to nominate our next United States Supreme Court Justices.”

His campaign stressed the list was compiled “first and foremost, based on constitutional principles, with input from highly respected conservatives and Republican Party leadership.”

Trump first said in March that he planned to release the list of five to 10 judges in an effort to ease concerns about his conservative credentials, which had come under attack in the heated Republican primary.

“I am going to give a list of either five or 10 judges that I will pick, 100 percent pick, that I will put in for nomination. Because some of the people that are against me say: ‘We don’t know if he’s going to pick the right judge. Supposing he picks a liberal judge or supposing he picks a pro-choice judge,’” Trump said at an event in Palm Beach, Florida.

He said then the list would include judges “that everybody respects, likes and totally admires” — “great conservative judges, great intellects, the people that you want.”

The vow marked a rare moment of acknowledgment by Trump that he could be doing more to appease those in his party opposed to his candidacy.

Trump had said he would like to appoint judges in the mold of deeply conservative as Scalia, who died in February.

In the statement, Trump described Scalia as “a remarkable person and a brilliant Supreme Court Justice.”

“His career was defined by his reverence for the Constitution and his legacy of protecting Americans’ most cherished freedoms,” he added. “He was a justice who did not believe in legislating from the bench and he is a person whom I held in the highest regard and will always greatly respect his intelligence and conviction to uphold the Constitution of our country.”

Larsen, of Scio Township, must stand for election in 2016 to fill Kelly’s remaining two years and, if elected, run again in 2018 for a new eight-year term.

“Joan Larsen is hard at work for the taxpayers of Michigan, and we are blessed to have her on our court,” said Stu Sandler, spokesman for Larsen’s campaign committee. “Joan Larsen is working along with the rest of Michigan’s Supreme Court to provide common-sense, rule-of-law justice. That is her focus and will remain her focus.”


State Supreme Court justices are technically elected to non-partisan, but the major parties nominate them. Larsen will seek the Republican nomination at the Michigan GOP’s Aug. 26 state convention.

Kethledge is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, appointed in 2008 by President George W. Bush.

He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and Judge Ralph B. Guy Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Kethledge also worked in the U.S. Senate and later, with two partners, founded the Bush Seyferth & Paige law firm in Troy.

A call into his appeal’s court office in Cincinnati was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Detroit News Staff Writers Chad Livengood and Jennifer Chambers and The Associated Press contributed.