CHICAGO — With President Donald Trump set to announce his pick for the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday evening from the White House, a Chicago-based judge is reportedly on his short list.
Judge Diane Sykes, 59, a judge on the Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, has been included on every short list circulating about Trump's pick.
Whoever Trump taps to fill the seat on the highest court in America left vacant since Justice Antonin Scalia died nearly a year ago will face a tough time getting confirmed by the U.S. Senate, where Democrats have vowed to block whoever Trump picks from getting 60 votes.
Shortly after Scalia's unexpected death, Trump said at a debate during the Republican primary that Sykes — along with William Pryor, Jr., from the 11th Circuit in Atlanta — would be at the top of his list of replacements. Sykes was also on a list of potential Supreme Court nominees released by Trump as a candidate in an effort to woo conservative voters.
If Sykes makes it to the Supreme Court, she would have followed a non-traditional path to get there. Sykes has an undergraduate degree in journalism from Northwestern University in Evanston, and she worked as a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal before getting her law degree from Marquette University.
Seven of the eight current Supreme Court justices have degrees from either Harvard or Yale universities — or both.
After seven years as a lawyer handling both criminal and civil matters, Sykes was appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court by former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson in 1999, and elected to a 10-year term the next year.
In 2003, former President George W. Bush nominated her to the federal bench.
Sykes was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2004 — but she failed to win the support of Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin who said he voted no because she refused to answer questions about abortion and Miranda rights and appeared biased against those charged with a crime.
This isn't the first time that Sykes has been considered for the Supreme Court. Bush considered tapping her to replace the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor in 2005.
While on the bench, Sykes — described by some legal conservatives as a "moderate conservative" — has made a number of rulings that effected Chicago.
Sykes ruled in favor of companies that challenged the Affordable Care Act's requirement to provide free contraceptives and found a law banning gun ranges in the city unconstitutional.
However, the judge also upheld the convictions of protesters who had blocked the door to an abortion clinic, and found that citizens have a First Amendment right to record encounters with police while officers are on duty in public places.
In recent weeks, Sykes' stock appears to have fallen with Trump, with the New York Times reporting Jan. 24 that the three final judges under consideration were Pryor, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch of the federal appeals court in Denver and Judge Thomas M. Hardiman of the federal appeals court in Pittsburgh.
Sykes is older than most of the judges considered by Trump, which may be perceived as a disadvantage by those looking for a conservative judge to hold a seat on the high court for as long as possible.
An inadvertent pronoun used by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer Monday afternoon at his afternoon briefing may have indicated Sykes' chances have dwindled to between slim and none.
"He is 100% sure he's the pick," Spicer said, perhaps indicating that the president has picked a man.