WASHINGTON — Just two weeks before he is expected to announce his pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, Donald Trump met on Saturday with one of the judges stated to be on his shortlist: Judge William Pryor, a former Alabama attorney general who prosecuted “Ten Commandments Judge” Roy Moore in 2003, and who vowed not to seek to overturn Roe v. Wade despite his personal beliefs during his confirmation hearing to the federal appeals circuit.
Those with knowledge of the meeting confirmed the discussion with the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity since it had not been made public by the incoming administration. Trump advised last week that he will likely announce his replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia within the first two weeks of taking office.
“I have a list of 20. I have gone through them. We’ve met with numerous candidates. They’re outstanding in every case,” he said at a press conference on Jan. 11.
Last February, following Scalia’s sudden death, Trump had cited Pryor, who currently sits on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, as being a possible replacement.
2003 PROSECUTION OF ROY MOORE
As previously reported, Pryor is most known for his prosecution of Roy Moore in 2003 over his refusal to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court. Pryor’s comments to Moore during his trial focused more on Moore’s refusal to stop acknowledging God as chief justice.
“[Y]our understanding is that the federal court ordered that you could not acknowledge God; isn’t that right?” Pryor asked. “And if you resume your duties as chief justice after this proceeding, you will continue to acknowledge God as you have testified that you would today?”
“That’s right,” Moore replied.
“No matter what any other official says?” Pryor asked.
“Absolutely,” Moore stated. “Let me clarify that. Without an acknowledgment of God, I cannot do my duties. I must acknowledge God. It says so in the Constitution of Alabama. It says so in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It says so in everything I have read.”
View video footage below.
As Moore continued to stand his ground, he was ordered by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary to be “removed from his position of Supreme Court justice of Alabama.”
Moore was re-elected by the people in 2012 to resume his duties as chief justice.
TENURE ON THE 11TH CIRCUIT
The same year, Pryor, who identifies as Roman Catholic, was nominated by then-President George W. Bush to serve on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. During his confirmation hearing, he advised that although he personally believes that abortion is “the taking of innocent human life” and therefore “morally wrong,” he would not seek to overturn Roe v. Wade as a federal judge.
“[M]y record as attorney general shows that I am able to put aside my personal beliefs and follow the law, even when I strongly disagree with it, to look carefully at precedents and to do my duty,” he advised.
“So even though you disagree with Roe v. Wade, you would act in accordance with Roe v. Wade on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals?” asked Sen. Orrin Hatch.
“Even though I strongly disagree with Roe v. Wade, I have acted in accordance with it as attorney general and would continue to do so as a court of appeals judge,” he said.
When questioned further by a skeptical Sen. Chuck Schumer about the matter, Pryor outlined that he had urged a colleague to refrain from seeking to overturn Roe, advising him not to “present that question to the [Supreme] Court.”
“This is what we have a hard time squaring—myself, I think some others,” Schumer said. “If you believe that Roe is the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law, it would seem to me to directly follow that you would want the Court to reverse Roe. It is a contradiction. You just said a minute ago that you believe that is still the case, and now you are saying you would not endorse the court reversing it. It does not add up.”
“Well, Senator,” Pryor replied, “all I can tell you is that the last time the court had that opportunity, I urged my colleague not to present that question to the court.”
Pryor was also a part of an appeals court opinion in 2011 that refused relief to a Christian woman who had been forced out of her counseling studies at Augusta State University after she declined to go through a “remediation program” that included sensitivity training and attending homosexual pride events.
Most recently, Pryor was the author of a ruling that was favorable toward the formation of a “gay-straight” alliance at a Florida middle school.
FEEDBACK ON PRYOR’S POTENTIAL NOMINATION
While some professing Christians have expressed support for Trump’s potential nomination of Pryor, others have objected in light of his statements and actions.
As previously reported, Jay Sekulow of the American Center of Law and Justice (ACLJ) said on Fox & Friends last month, “I look at some of the potential nominees, like Bill Pryor from the 11th Circuit, Diane Sykes and others—these are judges that have a proven track record, they have a proven judicial philosophy, and there’s no reason not to select a nominee.”
But the legal group Public Advocate put out a statement last week advising, “Public Advocate opposes Pryor because as a judge, Pryor has a long track record of ruling against Christians and in support of the radical left.”
The Personhood Alliance also remarked in a public statement on Monday that it was “troubled by the characterization of Judge Pryor as a conservative.”
“Not only did Judge Pryor personally prosecute Alabama Judge Roy Moore over his display of the Ten Commandments as attorney general of Alabama, but once he became a federal appeals judge, he issued rulings extending special rights to transgender people while refusing to recognize the religious liberty rights of Christians,” said President Daniel Becker.
“With his track record, we cannot risk having him on the court as we await the Supreme Court to deliberate on the cases considering the rights of children to be protected in their school bathrooms,” he stated.
Others included on Trump’s Supreme Court list include Steven Colloton, Allison Eid, Thomas Lee, Diane Sykes and Don Willett.