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What Trump's SCOTUS Pick Will Mean For The Stock Market

Wayne Duggan

President Donald Trump has said he will announce his latest nomination for the Supreme Court Monday, and his decision could have a lasting impact on U.S. law for a generation. Here’s a look at the two names that have been discussed as Trump’s most likely choices for the High Court vacancy left by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Brett Kavanaugh

Oddsmakers say D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh is the frontrunner. Sources close to Trump have said he has strongly indicated his preference for Kavanaugh. Trump reportedly likes Kavanaugh’s relatively moderate opinions on issues such as the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade.

Kavanaugh worked for the George W. Bush administration and has a record of conservative rulings. The judge has also shown a proclivity for maintaining the status quo and avoiding socially controversial topics. Kavanaugh wrote a dissenting opinion in a 2017 case in which the D.C. circuit court allowed a teen immigrant to terminate her pregnancy, but he has never publicly given his opinion on the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. 

Raymond Kethledge

Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Raymond Kethledge would certainly seem to be a long shot as nominee, but Trump has always shown an interest in Washington outsiders.

Kethledge has a conservative track record on the bench, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has already attacked his pro-life stance and track record of siding against workers’ right to organize. Schumer also pointed out Kethledge’s rulings against workers in cases involving fair wages, age discrimination and sexual harassment.

Supporters argue Kethledge has a clearer path to confirmation.

Kavanaugh critics say that his past work with Ken Starr during the Bill Clinton impeachment scandal could put him in a tough spot when asked about parallels between Trump’s actions while in office and arguments made in the Starr report condemning Clinton. For example, the Starr report accused Clinton of obstructing justice by concealing his involvement with Monica Lewinsky. Trump critics have made similar allegations against the sitting president. 

Why It Matters

Regardless of which nominee Trump chooses, the outcome of the process will have a major impact on Americans for decades.

The Supreme Court has no term limits, and Kethledge, 51, and Kavanaugh, 53, likely have decades of service ahead of them. The Supreme Court could face tough decisions on issues such as abortion, health care, gay marriage and immigration in the coming years, and Trump’s nominee could potentially come to cast a deciding vote.

For investors, a highly conservative or pro-business Supreme Court could have a number of effects in the business world.

As just one small example, Kethledge’s track record suggests he might tend to favor corporations in lawsuits involving claims by individuals or classes. U.S. corporations spend billions of dollars in legal fees and settlements each year.

Trump’s previous Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was sworn in as a High Court justice in 2017 after Republican senators failed to vote on President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland for 293 days.

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