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Trump’s Court Picks Are Mostly White Men, But They Are Still Unconventional

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, defied tradition on Wednesday by announcing a list of his top picks to be potential Supreme Court nominees. (Even presidents who are actually inaugurated tend not to tip their hands far in advance.)

Every one of the 11 judges on Trump’s list was white, and eight were men.

But in its own way, the list had untraditional elements. The judges were unusual for the court in being institutionally diverse. Many of them would be the first to represent their law schools on the Supreme Court. Specifically, there has never been a Supreme Court justice from the University of Chicago, Washington University in St. Louis, Georgetown, the University of Kansas, Marquette or Duke. Trump’s list also includes no graduates of Harvard Law, the school that has produced 19 justices, the most of any institution. Only one name on the list was a graduate of Yale Law, alma mater of 10 justices. (Every current justice attended either Harvard or Yale.)

Steven Colloton Iowa 8th C. Yale Rehnquist 53
Allison Eid Colo. State SC U. Chicago Thomas ~50
Raymond Gruender Mo. 8th C. Wash. U. 52
Thomas Hardiman Penn. 3rd C. Georgetown 50
Raymond Kethledge Mich. 6th C. Michigan Kennedy 49
Joan Larsen Mich. State SC Northwestern Scalia ~47
Thomas Lee Utah State SC U. Chicago Thomas 51
William Pryor Ala. 11th C. Tulane 54
David Stras Minn. State SC Kansas Thomas 41
Diane Sykes Wisc. 7th C. Marquette 58
Don Willett Texas State SC Duke 49
Trump’s Supreme Court short list

The judges on the list are also pretty young. Their average age is just over 50, compared with an average age of 68.75 on the current court. (The average age of nominated justices since 1900 has been 54.7.) Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to fill the open seat held by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, is 63. One of Trump’s proposed judges, David Stras, a state supreme court justice in Minnesota who is 41, would be the youngest Supreme Court nominee since Franklin Roosevelt was president.

The names on the list include justices from five state supreme courts and six federal judges. Six have clerked for current or former Supreme Court justices. Three — Allison Eid, Thomas Lee and Stras — clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas, easily the most conservative sitting justice. However, one — Raymond Kethledge — clerked for the moderate, and often swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The court is currently one member short, following Scalia’s death in February, and the justices appear to be balking at the specter of 4-4 deadlocks. Moreover, in addition to the empty seat left by Scalia, the next president may well have to fill other Supreme Court vacancies.

Several of the judges had earlier been promoted by the conservative Heritage Foundation, leading to the predictable division of Washington opinion. “Taken together, the records of these potential Trump nominees reflect a radical-right ideology that threatens fundamental rights,” said Nan Aron of the Alliance for Justice Action Campaign, a liberal judicial group, in a statement. Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative judicial group, praised the judges for sharing “a record of putting the law and the Constitution ahead of their political preferences.”

Nevertheless, even some on Trump’s very own list have been trepidacious about Trump’s would-be nominees. Don Willett, a justice on the Supreme Court of Texas, tweeted this “haiku” last June:

Oliver Roeder was a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied game theory and political competition.