Reports that the White House is currently vetting federal appellate Judge Jane Kelly as a potential replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died Feb. 13, is causing some serious chatter, and with good reason. With the Supreme Court set to hear some significant cases this year — like the politically-charged abortion case currently under debate — Scalia's empty seat could result in split 4-4 rulings that would have major impacts on the country. One of the more heavily weighted topics in considering Supreme Court nominees has long been the abortion question, and it's unlikely the president's eventual nominee won't come under scrutiny on the matter. So, what has Kelly said on reproductive rights?
A lot goes into confirming a Supreme Court replacement, including a thorough investigation into their perceived political leanings. Abortion and reproductive rights remain two of the most divisive issues on the Supreme Court's docket and play a notable role in how the Senate picks nominees. But if you thought potential Supreme Court nominees would be outspoken in their opinions on politically schismatic topics like reproductive rights, you'd be wrong. Like the majority of President Barack Obama's potential Supreme Court picks, Kelly appears to have said exactly zilch about abortion rights during her entire judicial career.
According to the Daily Beast, Judge Kelly has never commented publicly about reproductive rights or the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade. Bustle's own immediate review of records and a sampling of the 81 opinions Kelly has authored as a federal appellate judge also turned up nothing.
Granted Kelly's previous work history had her focused on the complexities of criminal law and defending convicted criminals. Prior to becoming the second woman to ever sit on the St. Louis-based Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Kelly worked as a federal public defender, meaning she wouldn't have found herself with many opportunities to weigh in on the issue of abortion even if she wanted to.
Furthermore, although Kelly is reported to be a moderate, she has put it on public record that she separates her own political feelings from her work. "At no time has political ideology or political motivation affected my role as an advocate; and it would not affect my decision-making as a judge, if I were to be confirmed," she said in an answer to Senate Judicial Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley's questions during her 2013 hearing before being approved as an 8th Circuit judge.
Obama is expected to announce his nominee to the Supreme Court in the next couple of weeks and Kelly's silence on abortion rights would most likely prove beneficial should she find herself in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee as the president's pick. Given the already volatile nature of the 2016 election and the current spotlight placed on abortion cases, no Republican senator — not even Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley who heaped praise on Kelly in 2013 when she was nominated for the Eighth Circuit Court and currently chairs the Senate's Judiciary Committee — is likely to support an outwardly pro-choice Supreme Court nominee.