Speculation abounds about the upcoming nomination of an individual to take the place of the late Justice Ginsburg on the Supreme Court of the United States. Although the President has said that he will announce his nomination this coming Saturday at 5 PM, that he will appoint a woman to the position, and that the notional “finalists” appear to be Justice Amy Barrett and Justice Barbara Lagoa, this writer has been mulling over the political implications of the upcoming nomination and the possible strategy considerations that might come into play.
Justice Barrett has been on the radar of most conservatives ever since she successfully weathered the attack on her devout Catholicism by Senator Feinstein and others during the committee hearings in her nomination to the Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit a few years ago. Her appointment was confirmed by a vote of 55 to 43. It is generally acknowledged that she will make a great Justice of the SCOTUS.
Justice Lagoa, now sitting on the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, previously served as a justice of a Florida intermediate appellate court and on the Florida Supreme Court. She was confirmed by the Senate to the 11th Circuit by a vote of 80 to 15.
Lagoa was born in Miami, Florida, in 1967. A Cuban-American, she is the daughter of parents who fled from Cuba following the Revolution and the assumption of power by Fidel Castro. She grew up in the majority Cuban-American city of Hialeah, Florida. She is bilingual, and she earned a Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, in 1989 from Florida International University, where she majored in English and was a member of the Phi Kappa Phi honor society. She received her Juris Doctor from Columbia Law School in 1992; while at Columbia, she was an Associate Editor of the Columbia Law Review.
Lagoa is married to lawyer Paul C. Huck Jr., and her father-in-law is United States District Judge Paul Huck. She and her husband have three daughters, including a set of twins. Lagoa is a practicing Roman Catholic, who cites Catholic education as instilling “an abiding faith in God that has grounded me and sustained me through the highs and lows of life.”
Although Lagoa has only been on the federal bench for a fairly short time, she has had many years of experience as an appellate judge and is highly regarded for her temperament and intellect.
Full disclosure- this writer, originally a native Floridian before escaping to New Hampshire, has been friendly with Lagoa’s father-in-law and has met and chatted with Lagoa several years ago about one of her well-reasoned opinions at a meeting of The Federalist Society in Miami of which this writer was a long time member and a member of the board of its Miami chapter.
So, here is one man’s political calculus: If the President nominates Barrett for this vacancy, shortly before the November 3 election, the confirmation process will be a firestorm by the Left that will make the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings look like nursery school. Even assuming she is confirmed, the process may somewhat hurt the President’s electoral chances in November. But if the President nominates Lagoa, he will achieve a number of incredibly positive outcomes: he will have nominated a woman, albeit a “minority” woman. And he will have nominated a Cuban-American woman from a state that the President desperately needs to win in order to attain his re-election.
Since it now appears that he has the Senate votes for confirmation and based on Lago’s smooth sailing through the prior confirmation process, a Lagoa nomination at this time would appear to be a no-brainer.
And then, after his re-election on November 3, when the next vacancy occurs (Justice Breyer has been long rumored to want to retire),the President could then nominate Barrett in the context of a hopefully more-red Senate to chime in with its confirmation.
At the end of the day, we would end up with a very solid majority of Conservative Justices who are young enough to serve for many decades.
Not a bad outcome at all.