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Observers hail Trump's inclusion of Pittsburgh judge among Supreme Court possibilities

| Wednesday, May 18, 2016, 2:21 p.m.
United States District Court
Thomas M. Hardiman is a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Donald Trump, the likely Republican presidential nominee, on Wednesday released a list of 11 people he plans to vet to fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia if he's elected.

Federal Circuit Court Judge Thomas M. Hardiman of Fox Chapel made the list.

Including Hardiman as a potential Supreme Court nominee makes a lot of sense, prominent Western Pennsylvania Republicans and Democrats said.

“He would be the first person I would think to put on my list,” said former Allegheny County Republican Chairman Jim Roddey.

Hardiman was active in Republican politics shortly after he came to Pittsburgh and quickly became an important fundraiser and organizer, Roddey said. Hardiman was co-chairman of Roddey's transition team when he became the county's first executive in 2000.

“He's really a brilliant young man, and I wasn't surprised to hear he was on the list,” Roddey said. “Knowing (Donald) Trump, I was a little surprised that Judge Judy wasn't on the list.”

Hardiman, 50, could not be reached for comment. He is married to Lori Zappala, cousin of Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.

“Since being appointed to the Third Circuit, Tom has developed an outstanding reputation as an appellate judge, a reputation only surpassed by his reputation as a husband, father and family man,” Stephen Zappala said.

Born in Winchester, Mass., Hardiman received a bachelor's degree from the University of Notre Dame and a law degree from Georgetown University.

His legal career spans several decades. He worked in private practices in Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh from 1990 until President George W. Bush appointed him to the U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh in 2003. Four years later, Bush appointed him to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Trump said in March that he would release a list of five to 10 judges to counter critics claiming that he might pick liberal or pro-choice judges for the high court.

“The following list of potential Supreme Court justices is representative of the kind of constitutional principles I value and, as president, I plan to use this list as a guide to nominate our next United States Supreme Court justices,” Trump said in a press release.

His campaign said the list was developed with input from “highly respected conservative and Republican Party leadership.”

The Associated Press contributed. Brian Bowling is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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