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February 24, 2016

Vetting Brian Sandoval: who might (other than Ohio State fans) get super excited about his possible SCOTUS nomination? UPDATE: Gov Sandoval does not want to be considered!

This afternoon I receive two email news alerts about a new SCOTUS nominee "front-runner": Nevada GOP Gov Brian Sandoval.  I had been planning to do a post about Gov Sandoval as an interesting possible SCOTUS candidate over the weekend, but a few folks I spoke with suggested it would be almost silly to imagine Prez Obama nominating a GOP elected official.  But, this Washington Post article, headlined "Republican governor of Nevada Brian Sandoval being considered for Supreme Court," suggests that at least a few Beltway insiders are having silly thoughts similar to mine.  Here are the basics with the Post:

Brian Sandoval, the centrist Republican governor of Nevada, is being vetted by the White House for a possible nomination to the Supreme Court, according to two people familiar with the process. Sandoval is increasingly viewed by some key Democrats as perhaps the only nominee President Obama could select who would be able to break a Republican blockade in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday pledged “no action” on any Supreme Court nomination before November’s election, saying the decision ought to be left to the next president. The White House declined to comment Wednesday for this story. White House press secretary Josh Earnest has emphasized in recent days that the president has not arrived at a short list of potential nominees.

The nomination of a GOP governor — albeit one with a bipartisan record — could break that resolve.

Sandoval met Monday with Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid, a fellow Nevadan with whom he enjoys cordial relations. A person familiar with the conversation said that while Sandoval told Reid he had not made a final decision on whether he would accept a Supreme Court nomination, he would allow the vetting process to move forward. Another person in Nevada familiar with the process confirmed that the process is underway....

It is unclear how many potential nominees are undergoing White House vetting for the high court vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. Obama was seen last week carrying a thick binder of materials on potential picks to review.

Obama outlined his thinking in a guest posting on SCOTUSblog Wednesday [available here]: “A sterling record. A deep respect for the judiciary’s role. An understanding of the way the world really works. That’s what I’m considering as I fulfill my constitutional duty to appoint a judge to our highest court.”

Some Democrats believe that nominating Sandoval could fracture the front of Republican opposition and force McConnell to take up the nomination in this contentious election year. It would also put on the spot a handful of Senate Republicans who are up for reelection in blue states in November.

The Senate unanimously confirmed Sandoval as a district court judge in 2005 after he was nominated by President George W. Bush. The Nevada Republican stepped down from the bench in 2009 to run for governor and is now counted among the most popular governors in the nation. He also represents a swing state with a heavy concentration of Latinos who will be important in the presidential race.

One Republican who is considered likely to support Sandoval if nominated is Nevada’s junior senator, Dean Heller. Heller suggested in a statement last week that the “chances of approving a new nominee are slim” but he did not discourage Obama from putting forth a nominee. “[W]ho knows, maybe it’ll be a Nevadan,” he said — a comment widely interpreted as signaling his support for Sandoval.

But nominating Sandoval would carry risks for Obama. Sandoval is aligned with Democrats on some key issues, including abortion rights and the environment. As governor, he has moved to implement the Affordable Care Act, and has said he considers same-sex marriage to be a settled issue. But Sandoval is not seen as labor-friendly — potentially alienating a swath of the Democratic base. His legal credentials are also lacking compared to some of the other names under consideration who are mainly sitting federal judges.

A Senate confirmation of Sandoval through this year could deny a Democratic successor to Obama, whether Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, the opportunity to nominate a more orthodox liberal to the court and cement an ideological shift in its jurisprudence. Asked by The Morning Consult in a brief interview Saturday about a potential nomination, Sandoval said, “It would be a privilege,” calling the Supreme Court “the essence of justice in this country.”...

As governor, Sandoval alienated many conservatives by accepting the Medicaid expansion that was a cornerstone of Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and one of his recent budgets, passed over the opposition of many Republicans in the legislature, included tax hikes designed to boost funding for the state’s notoriously under-performing public schools.

One big reason I was thinking about blogging about Gov Sandoval even before this news broke is the fact that he received his law training at the law school where I now teach: The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  Because Gov Sandoval graduated in 1989 from OSU College of Law, he was at "my" law school roughly a decade before I started teaching here. But he has long been an OSU alum whose career I have closely followed, and I have had the pleasure to meet Gov Sandoval a few times. (In addition, no doubt because Gov Sandoval became a US District Court judge not long after the Booker decision, he mentioned once that he was familiar with this blog.)

Though it may be a waaaay too premature to get too excited about the prospect of a Justice Sandoval, folks interested in know more about his personal background and his family's many links to Ohio State should check out this article from our OSU College of Law alumni magazine. Here is an excerpt that perhaps will help others join me in considering Gov Sandoval as a very appealing possible SCOTUS nominee:

Sandoval returned to Moritz on March 15 to share his thoughts on leadership as the keynote speaker for the Program on Law and Leadership’s Fifth Annual Speaker Series. The former Nevada attorney general, state legislator, and federal judge spoke in detail about “transformational” and “ser­vant” leadership. “You can never go wrong when you make prin­cipled decisions,” he said. “Don’t take shortcuts.”

Sandoval grew up in Sparks, Nev., where he raised sheep and sold wool for spending money as a child. His mother, a legal secretary, often took him to work. Sandoval said his first job outside of selling wool was working in the cafeteria of a federal courthouse.

He graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1986 and chose The Ohio State University for law school over the University of California Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. Sando­val’s brother, Ron, was in veterinary school at Ohio State when Sandoval made the decision to come to Columbus. “I had never set foot in Ohio,” he said. The brothers started somewhat of a family tradition: Their mother, Teri Sandoval, would later earn her Ph.D. in education from Ohio State.

Sandoval returned to Nevada after graduation and entered public life shortly thereafter. He was elected to serve in the Nevada Legislature in 1994 and became the youngest state gaming commis­sion chairman a few years later, at age 35.

Sandoval became the first Hispanic elected to statewide office in Nevada when he was elected attorney general in 2002. It was the first of many such designations: Sandoval is Nevada’s first Hispanic governor and became its first Hispanic federal judge when he was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2005. “I wish I wasn’t the first. It shouldn’t have taken this long,” he said.

Sandoval credits the help of mentors, including former Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn and longtime Nevada state legislator William Raggio, for inspir­ing him to think longterm and “make the right decision, not the popular decision” when faced with tough challenges. Sandoval encountered plenty during his first stint in statewide office.

His first week as attorney general had him fac­ing journalists during a press conference on one of the most pressing issues of his tenure: Yucca Mountain. As attorney general, Sandoval led the state’s efforts to prevent the federal government from storing nuclear waste at the site. During his first year in the Attorney General’s Office, a budget stalemate at the statehouse resulted in a crisis that threatened to leave public schools unfunded as lawmakers failed to reach the two-thirds supermajority the state required for any tax increase.

At the request of then-Gov. Guinn, his office sought a writ of mandamus to force the Legislature to pass a budget. The case ended up before the Supreme Court of Nevada, which granted the writ and ordered the Legislature to pass a budget by simple majority. The outcome drew protest from some GOP leaders.

Sandoval, a Republican, said he remembered the advice of his mentors – thinking of long-term effects and making principled, sometimes un­popular decisions – whenever he took heat from members of his own party. “It was important to me that (the attorney gen­eral’s office) be a law office, not a political office,” he said.

Prior related posts on new SCOTUS nominee possibilities:

UPDATE on Feb. 25: Gov. Sandoval, according to this new local press report, "took his name out of consideration Thursday for a possible nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court." Oh well, I guess I now have to go back to rooting for the elevation of Sixth Circuit Judge (and former Justice Scalia clerk) Jeff Sutton to bring a Buckeye law degree to a seat on the Supreme Court. And I also now need to be thinking about the next new name to consider as a short-lister for Prez Obama.

February 24, 2016 at 03:46 PM | Permalink


Life tenure wasn't enough for the guy the first time ...

Posted by: Joe | Feb 24, 2016 4:23:45 PM

He'd be a brilliant choice.

Posted by: memyself | Feb 24, 2016 9:11:40 PM

Its an exercise in futilty, its a dead issue left for the newly elected.

Same outcome as repealing obamacare, its not going to happen.

Its just another expense dragging down the country.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Feb 25, 2016 11:40:23 AM

oh well ... maybe next time

Posted by: Joe | Feb 25, 2016 1:38:52 PM

You know what would be great:

Have Obama nominate Kent or Bill from you know where and see if this nonsense continues.

Posted by: albeed | Feb 25, 2016 5:46:47 PM

We need a law grad from Ohio, not Harvard or Yale. I nominate the author of this blog. I read this blog almost every day. I make snide and humorous comments but I do not wish to offend any of you folks.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Feb 25, 2016 10:42:03 PM

I favor a graduate from Ohio State Law School for the Supreme Court. No Ivy League. Too many of those lame brains on the bench. Not one has ever defended a human in a criminal jury trial.

Posted by: HaroldRectum | Feb 26, 2016 8:28:20 AM

Maybe not in a criminal trial, but they defended humans in criminal appeals.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 26, 2016 10:11:48 AM

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