by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
In 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump took the unusual step of pledging to choose his Supreme Court nominees from a list vetted and compiled by Leonard Leo, an outside adviser to Trump on the courts while on leave from the Federalist Society, and the Heritage Foundation. …
… Liberal judicial activist groups announced earlier this week that they are working on a similar effort — compiling a list of progressive judges who would fill the courts if a Democrat wins the White House in 2020. Building the Bench, an initiative by the Alliance for Justice and other liberal organizations, will identify progressive judges they believe are best-suited to fill likely vacancies. …
… “We’ve launched #buildingthebench to make sure the next president won’t lose a minute when it comes to fixing the damage the Trump administration has done to our courts,” AFJ tweeted Thursday. AFJ is a 40-year-old organization that has played an instrumental role in every high-profile judicial battle since it successfully helped derail the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork in 1987.
But unlike Trump’s transparent 2016 move, the AFJ and the other groups involved are keeping their lists of judges secret, and no Democratic presidential campaign is willing to say it would use the list to select nominees.
RealClearPolitics reached out to a dozen of these campaigns to ask whether they would commit to selecting appointees from the Building the Bench roster, but only a handful responded to repeated requests – and those responses were noncommittal.