Our editorial: Look to Michigan for court pick
Raymond Kethledge is breathing rare air this weekend. The name of the federal appeals court judge is said to be on President Donald Trump’s short list of three potential nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court.
That pick will be announced in typical Trump fashion during a prime-time White House event Monday night.
Kethledge’s presence among the finalists is also making him a target of the resistance movement, which wants no justice on the Supreme Court who Trump wants. Social media seems obsessed with his boyish appearance, extrapolating that it suggests something about his maturity.
But Kethledge, 51, is not lacking in either maturity or experience nor, for that matter, in legal wisdom.
The University of Michigan law school graduate, who still lives near Ann Arbor, stands out for his intellect and scholarship. He would be an excellent choice to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is retiring.
Trump critics warn that all of those on the 25-name list Trump is selecting from are extremists who would tilt the court sharply to the right. That’s not true of most, and certainly not of Kethledge.
He does have a conservative legal background, and is considered an originalist, meaning he believes the Constitution means what it says.
But he is also deeply respected for his knowledge of and respect for the law. His nomination to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had Democratic support.
Kethledge is also rooted deeply in legal scholarship. He is even a former Kennedy clerk.
He is described as being in the mold of Trump’s first Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, who, while conservative, has demonstrated early independence as a justice.
Kethledge is noted for his strong work ethic and direct writing style — he writes his own opinions — and has little in his legal background to signal how he’d rule on a Roe v. Wade challenge.
But, if personal history is a guide, he would hold true to the law and eschew activism.
No matter who Trump appoints, the threat to Roe v. Wade is overstated. Chief Justice John Roberts is not given to such sweeping, precedent changing rulings, and is likely to use his influence to prevent his court from being the decisive voice in a decades-long cultural fight.
Kethledge should be weighed on his distinguished career and legal qualifications, and not on speculation of where he might stand on future cases.
It should be noted that a second Michigan jurist, Joan Larsen, 49, also of the Sixth Circuit, is on Trump’s short list. The former Michigan Supreme Court justice would be an excellent choice as well.
Larsen is also from Ann Arbor and was a UM law professor before joining the state Supreme Court en route to the federal bench.
Both she and Kethledge are reasonable, thoughtful jurists who would bring to the court respect for America’s remarkable legal tradition.
Trump would serve the nation well by turning to Michigan for this Supreme Court nomination.