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Local Expert Weighs In On Potential SCOTUS Picks

by Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- President Donald Trump announced via twitter on Monday that he would name his nominee for the US Supreme Court Tuesday night.

Sources in the White House have been floating a Supreme Court "short list" for weeks. But Tuesday night, Americans will know for sure when President Trump announces his nominee at 8pm.

"The short list has varied back and forth," says Stephanos Bibas, a professor in Penn Law School's Supreme Court Clinic.

A former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, he has litigated a number of issues before the high court.

Bibas says the latest list of possible nominees includes two justices, both conservative, but non-controversial.

"Neil Gorsuch, who is rumored to be the leading candidate is brilliant, writes clearly and beautifully," says Bibas, "he's fair-minded and not only cares about following the law where it goes, but protecting individual liberties."

Gorsuch faced little opposition when he was nominated by George W. Bush to the 10th circuit. He is a strict constructionist and, although he is less outspoken than the conservative standard-bearer, he is viewed as one that could possibly fill the shoes left by Justice Antonin Scalia.

"His reasoning and principals, and voting would very much align him with Justice Scalia," says Bibas, noting that Gorsuch's record is thin on abortion and on some of the more polarizing social issues.

He says Third Circuit Judge Thomas Hardiman, a Pittsburgh native who drove taxis to put himself through law school at Georgetown University, also has appeal that could cross party lines.

"President Trump might admire that 'pull yourself up by your boot straps' past," says Bibas, "also he is less of a conservative when compared with Scalia- but he is hard on crime and holds the line with the second amendment."

A third candidate, William Prior from Alabama and who sits on the 11th Circuit, would certainly result in filibuster.

"He's much more outspoken and has been very openly critical," says Bibas, noting that Prior has made it clear he is pro-life.

He belives a Pryor pick could cause a dust-up among Democrats and more moderate Republicans in the Senate.

"Democrats don't like him and there's been some criticism on the right," says Bibas, "so he wouldn't be a safe pick; but I don't know how cautious the White House will be."

Bibas says, if Trump's pick is safe, a new judge could be in place by April. If not, the Democrats could force the president to get a super majority.

The split would cause delay in confirmation of a new justice.

There are several controversial issues at bat this term that would require a nine-member court, including a consumer class action, transgender access to bathrooms, immigration issues, and much more.

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