Pittsburgh-based judge on Trump's list of potential Kennedy successors

Thomas Hardiman was a "runner up" to Neil Gorsuch, who replaced the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Cherri Gregg
June 28, 2018 - 1:45 pm
Official portrait of federal judge Thomas Hardiman

Roy Engelbrecht via U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — President Donald Trump has said his pick to replace soon to-be-retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will come from a list of about 25 people. A Pennsylvania federal judge is on the short list for the second time.

Based in Pittsburgh, Judge Thomas Hardiman has sat on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals for the past decade. He was considered to be the "runner up" to Justice Neil Gorsuch, who replaced the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the high court last year. 

Appointed to the federal bench by George W. Bush, Hardiman was the first in his family to go to college. He drove a taxi cab to help pay his tuition at school at Georgetown Law. He's spent part of his time on the Third Circuit serving alongside Maryanne Trump Barry, the president older sister.
 
"People who watch the court would portray him as on the more conservative side of the court," said Richard Frankel, an associate professor at Drexel's Thomas Kline School of Law. He runs an appellate clinic, where he supervises students who have appeared before Judge Hardiman.

"He's always been respectful and thoughtful in the cases that we've had in front of him," Frankel said.

He notes that any Trump pick could make it more difficult for the clients his clinic represents: "People who are incarcerated — challenging their conviction or challenging a violation of their civil rights while they are in prison," he said.

Kennedy was the Supreme Court justice liberals looked to on social and civil rights issues like same sex marriage, voting, affirmative action and abortion. Frankel says Kennedy's role cannot be understated when it comes to maintain progress made for women and minorities.

"I hope the next justice understands the centrist role that Kennedy played and maintains that," he says.

Hardiman was active in Republican politics before taking the bench. He is married to Lori Zappala, a lawyer whose family is well known in Democratic politics. Last year, Axios, a political newsletter, ranked Hardiman as one of the most moderate of President Trump's potential picks