Trump’s First Appellate Judicial Pick?

by Jonathan H. Adler

All eyes may be on President Trump’s nomination of the Honorable Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, but there are over one hundred additional vacancies on the federal courts. At some point, President Trump will have to begin selecting lower court judges. Is it too soon to speculate on who these nominees might be? Perhaps, but if pundits can talk about the 2020 presidential race (as some have), we can indulge at least a little speculation.

One of President Trump’s first nominations to the appellate bench may be one of the finalists for the Supreme Court nomination: Judge Amul Thapar, who currently sits on the federal district court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. According to numerous reports, Judge Thapar was one of a handful of potential nominees who met with the President, largely at the urging of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. In addition to being a federal judge, Thapar is a former U.S. Attorney. He has substantial private sector experience and has taught at law schools on the side.

Among the current appellate vacancies is a Kentucky seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. An additional Kentucky seat will open up at the end of this month. With McConnell in his corner, this would seem to make Judge Thapar a near shoo-in for a seat on the Sixth Circuit. So later this spring, when the White House unveils its first slate of appellate nominations, do not be surprised to see Judge Thapar on the list.

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