Currently, there are three leading contenders to be named by President Trump to the late Antonin Scalia’s vacant seat on the Supreme Court, one of whom is a conservative jurist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with a personal reason for being a proponent of gun rights.
Judge Thomas M. Hardiman has been described by lawyers in Pittsburgh as a strong defender of the 2nd Amendment and as a personable, smart, hard-working, and practical, but not as academic and ideological as Scalia, the court’s outspoken conservative, according to this story from the Los Angeles Times.
Trump said he will announce his pick on Thursday. The other contenders are Judge Neil M. Gorsuch from the 10th Circuit in Colorado and Judge William H. Pryor from Alabama, who serve on the 11th Circuit Court.
Hardiman is a former trial judge who moved up to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, where he serves along with Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry.
The story says that while he is moderate on many hot button issues, Hardiman took a strong position four years ago in favor of a 2nd Amendment right to carry a gun in public. He dissented when the 3rd Circuit upheld a New Jersey law that required people seeking a concealed carry permit to demonstrate a “justifiable need” to be armed.
The story says plaintiffs who had been turned down for permits sued, alleging the restriction violated their 2nd Amendment rights.
A district judge upheld the law, and the 3rd Circuit agreed by a 2-1 vote. The majority opinion said that while the Supreme Court had recognized a right to have a gun at home for self-defense, it had not ruled that the Constitution protected the right to carry a gun in public.
Hardiman’s 40-page dissent argued that the high court and Justice Scalia described the 2nd Amendment as protecting a right to “self-defense.” He wrote in Drake vs. Filko: “the need for self-defense naturally exists outside and inside the home, I would hold the 2nd Amendment applies outside the home. New Jersey has decided that fewer handguns legally carried in public means less crime. It is obvious that the justifiable need requirement functions as a rationing system designed to limit the number of handguns carried in New Jersey,” but that it cannot stand in the face of the Second Amendment.
The Supreme Court later turned down a petition in 2014 asking them to review the 3rd Circuit’s decision without comment.
The story says that the Supreme Court is likely to face the issue again in the next year, as several states, including California, face 2nd Amendment suits from people who have been denied the right to carry or own a firearm.