Could Supreme Court retirement open door for Fox Chapel's Hardiman?
Fox Chapel's Thomas M. Hardiman emerged as a top contender the last time President Trump was filling a Supreme Court vacancy.
Wednesday's news that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy plans to retire at the end of July raises the question of whether Trump will again consider Hardiman, a Pittsburgh-based judge who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Trump reportedly summoned Hardiman, 52, and Colorado's Neil Gorsuch to Washington before announcing his nomination. He ultimately chose Gorsuch to fill a vacancy created by the death of former Justice Antonin Scalia.
“It had to be an honor. I would expect he'll be there again,” fellow Third Circuit Judge D. Michael Fisher said Wednesday.
Hardiman, born in Massachusetts, was the first in his family to go to college and would have been the only Supreme Court justice without an Ivy League degree. He drove a taxi to help pay for law school at Georgetown University.
After working in private practice for two years in Washington, D.C., Hardiman settled in Pittsburgh, the hometown of his wife, the former Lori Zappala. He worked in private practice for more than a decade before a 2003 appointment to the U.S. District Court and a 2007 appointment to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
A political fight erupted in Washington in 2016 after the conservative Scalia died, leaving the bench with four justices who had been appointed by Republican presidents and four by Democrats. Senate Republicans refused to act upon former President Obama's nomination of federal judge Merrick Garland.
Bob Daley, a partner at Robert Pierce and Associates in Pittsburgh, said he was part of a legal team that argued a Medicaid-related case before Hardiman in 2010. Daley said Hardiman stood out for being professional, knowledgeable and possessing a good demeanor.
“He's certainly conservative. His opinions are conservative,” Daley said. “I think that's really not up for too much debate.”
Fisher, who said he is close friends with Hardiman, said the two have never had any discussions on social issues.
“I think he's conservative in the way he approaches cases and looks at what our job is in interpreting statutes and trying to ascertain what Congress means, and how you evaluate a statute, (and) how you evaluate what's spoken by administrative agencies,” Fisher said.
“I certainly think that he'd be an excellent person to be selected this time, and I don't know of any reason why he wouldn't be seriously considered,” he said.