Could Supreme Court retirement open door for Fox Chapel’s Hardiman? |

Could Supreme Court retirement open door for Fox Chapel’s Hardiman?

Wesley Venteicher
In this photo taken Nov. 17, 2016, Judge Thomas Hardiman, federal judgefrom Fox Chapel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit is seen in Washington.

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.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, [email protected] or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.