Why Trump should pick Hardiman for Supreme Court
© Greg Nash

If members of the law enforcement community had a vote on who they’d like to see on the Supreme Court, they’d probably look to Judge Thomas Hardiman

Hardiman currently serves as a Federal Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Pennsylvania; and is reportedly being looked at by the Trump administration for a nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace the seat vacated by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. 

On Tuesday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the list had been narrowed down to Hardiman, along with Judge William Pryor of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and Judge Neil Gorsuch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

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Hardiman, who lives outside Pittsburgh, is a graduate of Notre Dame University and the Georgetown University Law Center. Originally from Massachusetts, Hardiman reportedly was a taxi driver, like his father was, to pay his way through law school; and was the first person in his family to attend college.

Hardiman is fluent in Spanish and was nominated to the U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh by President George W. Bush in 2003 and, in 2006, he promoted with a nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

The law enforcement community, especially from the mid-Atlantic region is aware of Hardiman through his 2007 ruling which upheld the constitutionality of strip searches of jail prisoners regardless of how minor the offense of which they were accused. 

The Supreme Court later endorsed his decision, 5-4. This was an extremely important ruling as it officially communicated the importance of officer safety, noting that wanted fugitives, drug offenders, and other dangerous people could be unknowingly stopped for minor offenses and commit violent acts when they are arrested, booked and fingerprinted.

Other pro-law enforcement rulings by Hardiman include 2014 ruling on the Fraternal Order of Police (lodge 5) v. City of Philadelphia. In this case, the appeals court reversed a district court ruling that had held Philadelphia’s home rule charter, which banned city police officers from contributing to their union PAC, did not violate the First Amendment. 

Judge Hardiman’s pro-union 57-page opinion carefully evaluates the history behind and the evidence for the prohibition, and strikes it down. He concluded that “given the lack of fit between the City’s stated objectives and the means selected to achieve it,” the charter ban was unconstitutional.

While Hardiman has backed First Amendment rights in the context of political donations, he took a more narrow view in his ruling over an important 2010 lawsuit, Kelly vs. the Borough of Carlisle, over an arrest for videotaping a police officer during a traffic stop, holding that there was no clearly established First Amendment right to record such an event. 

While other federal courts held that law enforcement had no expectation of privacy while conducting their duties, Hardiman ruled otherwise. When looking at the myriad of videos taunting law enforcement officers into confrontation, such a ruling is considered step in the right direction by law enforcement who need recorded evidence to be in a chain of custody where it can be contextually relevant.

Furthermore, in 2013, Hardiman wrote a common-sense dissent in Drake vs. Filko that said New Jersey was violating the Second Amendment to the Constitution by requiring those seeking to carry a handgun to demonstrate a “justifiable need” for such a permit. 

New Jersey’s requirement to demonstrate a “justifiable need for self-defense” to a local chief of police, some of whom are parts of small-town political fiefdoms; is widely considered arbitrary and ineffective considering the high crime rates in almost all of New Jersey’s larger (over 50,000 in population) cities.

The prospect of Trump picking a conservative judge who is well-respected on both sides of the aisle comes with great appeal for the rapid fervor of Trump Administration accomplishments since the inauguration. 

Furthermore, President Trump most likely has in-depth, personal information on Judge Hardiman; as President Trump's sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, also serves on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. As someone personally invested in the rulings of the high court, having rulings directly impact their life, I’m watching Trump’s possible picks for the Supreme Court very carefully…and personally am rooting for Hardiman to be chosen.

A. Benjamin Mannes is a national subject matter expert in public safety and regular contributor to The Hill. He serves as a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Board at St.John’s University and the Peirce College Criminal Justice Studies Advisory Board in Philadelphia and is a Governor on the Executive Board of InfraGard, the FBI-coordinated public-private partnership for critical infrastructure protection. Follow him on Twitter: @PublicSafetySME


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