Five things you should read about the Pittsburgh judge Trump may appoint to the Supreme Court

Thomas Hardiman is a reliable conservative — but is he conservative enough?

Judge Thomas Hardiman; the Supreme Court building

Judge Thomas Hardiman; the Supreme Court building

Official portrait; 350z33 / Wikipedia Commons
Sarah Anne Hughes

Update, 8:06 p.m.

President Trump has nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch of the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. Read more about him here.

Original post

Pittsburgh Judge Thomas Hardiman is rumored to be one of Donald Trump’s top picks for a vacant seat on the Supreme Court.

One reason? Hardiman serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit with Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry.

Hardiman is a reliably conservative judge with a record of donating to Republicans. He’s married to Lori Zappala Hardiman, who’s related to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. and other prominent local Democrats.

“I don’t think he really has set ideas about particular hot-button issues that would lead him to pre-judge a case that came before him,” a former Haridman law clerk, Richard Heppner Jr., told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The speculation will be laid to rest at 8 p.m., when the president is scheduled to announce his nominee. In the meantime, here are five pieces you should read to learn more about Hardiman.

“Bush’s Chosen One”

— Pittsburgh City Paper

This 2003 Pittsburgh City Paper piece by Rich Lord (now of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) profiles Hardiman after he was tapped by President George W. Bush to be a federal judge. At the time, Hardiman was a partner at Reed Smith’s Pittsburgh office.

Lord’s piece covered a number of controversial housing cases Hardiman was involved in as a lawyer, including this:

In 1994, at then-City Councilor Dan Onorato’s request, he represented the residents of Allegheny Commons East in their effort to keep the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development from allowing very-low-income residents into their North Side community.

Hardiman also successfully represented Allegheny County in a challenge brought by two atheists regarding a Ten Commandments plaque on a wall of the county courthouse. “The Constitution no more requires the expungement of public references to the Ten Commandments than it does any other aspect of the heritage we share as Americans,” Hardiman’s team wrote, according to Lord.

“Here’s Where Donald Trump’s Supreme Court Picks Stand on Abortion”

— Time

With abortion access threatened across the country, Trump’s nominee’s stance on reproductive rights will surely play a role in his confirmation. While one of the other leading contenders, William Pryor, has a well-documented record opposing abortion access, Hardiman doesn’t.

He did, however, vote in favor of vacating the conviction of an anti-abortion protester in United States v. Marcavage. In the case, the court agreed that the protester had the right to stand on a Philadelphia sidewalk after he was arrested for violating his permit.

“Donald Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist is reportedly down to these 3 men”

— Vox

In a brief rundown of Trump’s top three picks, Vox summed up Hardiman’s record of ruling for law enforcement:

On the Third Circuit, Hardiman has consistently sided with law enforcement against defendants and inmates. He ruled that a policy of strip-searching jail inmates didn’t violate the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search (an opinion the Supreme Court upheld). He’s also written, in dissent, that the First Amendment does not give citizens the right to tape police — something with which every state in the union currently disagrees.

“Full Appeals Court Upholds ‘Boobies’ Bracelets in Schools”

— Education Week

To look at Hardiman’s stance on free speech, several outlets have referred to his decision in the “I [Heart] Boobies” bracelet case.

The Third Circuit voted in 2013 to uphold an injunction that blocked a Pennsylvania school district from banning the bracelets, which raised awareness about breast cancer. Hardiman dissented, as Education Week reported:

Writing for the dissenters, Judge Thomas M. Hardiman said the court should have deferred to the judgment of school administrators.


“In this close case, the ‘I ♥ boobies! (KEEP A BREAST)’ bracelets would seem to fall into a gray area between speech that is plainly lewd and merely indecorous,” Hardiman said. “Because I think it objectively reasonable to interpret the bracelets, in the middle school context, as inappropriate sexual innuendo and double entendre, I would reverse the judgment of the district court and vacate the preliminary injunction.”

“Potential nominee profile: Thomas Hardiman”

— ScotusBlog

In running down Hardiman’s many conservative bona fides, ScotusBlog also highlighted the judge’s more liberal stances:

He wrote for the court in allowing a gender-stereotyping claim by a gay man who described himself as “effeminate” to go forward, reversing the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the company where the man worked, and which ultimately fired him. Hardiman explained that the plaintiff was “harassed because he did not conform to” the company’s “vision of how a man should look, speak, and act – rather than harassment based solely on his sexual orientation.”

The news outlet also noted that Hardiman volunteered with legal aid clinic Ayuda when he lived in D.C. and worked on asylum cases. This part of Hardiman’s resume has really angered the folks at VDare, which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a “white nationalist hate website.”