While Judges Hardiman
are the overwhelming favorites for the Court, the last finalist is 11th Circuit judge William Pryor
. Pryor is seen as the least likely of the three to be picked, because he’s been to forthright about his opposition to Roe v. Wade
and Trump indicated he wanted a nominee who would get confirmed [Trump weighs Supreme Court pick as abortion opponents march in D.C
., CBS News, January 27, 2016]
I initially hoped that Trump would still pick Pryor, because he has long been close friends with Jeff Sessions
, and Sessions’ good sense could have rubbed off on him. However, I took a quick look at his immigration opinions, which SCOTUS Blog summarized as:
Pryor also generally votes in the government’s favor in immigration cases, but with regular and notable exceptions. He has voted both for (Ayala v. U.S. Att’y. Gen.) and against (Malu v. U.S. Att’y. Gen.) asylum-seekers alleging fear of persecution based on sexual orientation. He has repeatedly voted in favor of immigrants seeking asylum based on fears of religious persecution. Examples include Mezvrishvili v. U.S. Att’y. Gen. (Jehovah’s Witness from Republic of Georgia); Mingkid v. U.S. Att’y. Gen. (Indonesian Christians); Kazemzadeh v. U.S. Att’y. Gen. (Christian from Iran); as well as Tan v. U.S. Atty. Gen. (vacating denial of asylum to Indonesian of Chinese descent, alleging racial persecution). Pryor has also voted for and against asylum-seekers asserting abortion-related grounds for persecution at home in, for example, Jiang v. U.S. Att’y. Gen. (Chinese applicant entitled to reopen case to present new evidence of forced sterilization in China); Li v. U.S. Att’y. Gen.(same); Yu v. U.S. Att’y. Gen. (spouse failed to prove persecution based on wife’s forced sterilization); and Lin v. U.S. Att’y. Gen. (same for boyfriend). [Potential nominee profile: William Pryor, by Kevin Russell, January 10, 2016]
I have not had time to go through each opinion, but what I read was not promising. Ayala v. U.S. Att’y. Gen
involved giving Asylum to an H.I.V. positive gay man who merely claimed that an individual police officer assaulted him, which seemed very dubious based on my short reading.
the court overturned the denial of asylum to a supposed Jehovah Witness who claimed the Republic of Georgia persecuted him because of his faith. The Immigration judge found he had virtually no involvement with the church in the U.S. and could not answer rudimentary claims about the faith. The court reversed on the grounds that sometimes non-devout members are persecuted. This strains common sense. There are certain religious groups that strongly overlap with culture or ethnicity like Jews or Ulster Protestants. Yet Jehovah’s Witnesses are a small and recent group in Georgia--there were none until the 1950s--who were persecuted in part because they were viewed as religious fanatics. [Religious Intolerance in the Republic of Georgia
, Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 2002].
I only skimmed these two opinions, so I would need to withhold judgment until I had a chance to look more deeply into his record (which I don’t have time to do before Trump announces his choice). But, at first glance, this dampens my enthusiasm for him. Everything else I’ve heard about Pryor has been positive, and Sessions should know his private views on immigration enforcement. However, based on my quick read, I’m not sure that it’s worth the political capital to confirm Pryor without being sure he will be solid on immigration.
Thus, out of the three most talked about cases, I would lean towards Gorsuch. Though I had some reservations about his views on executive power, he will be relatively easy to confirm and he has not had any bad immigration opinions or statements as far as I could find.