UNI alumna Supreme Court candidate


Courtesy Photo

Justice Joan Larsen graduated from UNI in 1990 with BAs in political science and Spanish.

The Supreme Court vacancy was a dominant issue this electon cycle. For the UNI community, Trump’s  choice of who will fill this vacancy could hit close to home.

That’s because a UNI graduate is on Trump’s short list of potential Supreme Court nominees.

The Supreme Court has had a vacancy since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February of this year.

Joan Larsen, current  justice on the Michigan Supreme Court, graduated from UNI in 1990 with a BA in political science and a BA in Spanish, according to the Office of the Registrar, and is the ninth candidate on Trump’s list.

According to the Michigan Supreme Court website, Larsen went on to earn her professional degree at Northwestern University before her appointment to the Michigan Supreme Court by Governor Rick Snyder in 2015. Previously, Larsen was a law professor at the University of Michigan.

“My mom and my two older sisters are UNI grads, so attending UNI was something of a tradition in my family. UNI gave me a wonderful start,” Larsen said in a statement.

Larsen said she was a member of the inaugural class of presidential scholars. She said graduate-style seminars offered through the program taught her skills essential to judging—skills such as critical thinking and clear writing.

The Presidential Scholarship program began in 1984, providing scholarships commensurate with four years of tuition. Currently, Presidential scholarships are given out to 20 UNI students.

“Even outside of the seminars, the vast majority of my classes at UNI were taught by the professors themselves, rather than by graduate assistants,” Larsen said. “That’s not common in a larger university and it made a difference for me to be able to learn directly from people who were so accomplished in their fields.”

“UNI was a place that fostered common-sense thinking and Midwestern values like working hard, caring for one’s neighbors, and believing in the good we can accomplish both individually and as a community,” Larsen continued.

“I have no doubt that my time at UNI made me a better judge and a better person.”

US Senator Chuck Grassley, who also chairs the Senare Judiciary Committee, applauded Trump’s consideration of Larsen.

“President-elect Trump put out an impressive list of highly qualified jurists who understand and respect the fundamental principles that the court’s role is limited and subject to the Constitution and rule of law,” Grassley said in a statement.

“Judge Larsen is, of course, no exception. Now that the people have selected our next president, the Judiciary Committee will fairly and thoroughly vet President-elect Trump’s nominee, whomever that may be.”

Grassley was at the center of controversy earlier this year when the Senate Judiciary Committee refused to consider appointment of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.

On his website, Trump addressed his reasons behind his list of Supreme Court nominees.

“We have a very clear choice in this election,” reads Trump’s website. “The freedoms we cherish and the constitutional values and principles our country was founded on are in jeopardy.

“The responsibility is greater than ever to protect and uphold these freedoms and I will appoint justices, who like Justice Scalia, will protect our liberty with the highest regard for the Constitution. This list is definitive and I will choose only from it in picking future Justices of the United States Supreme Court.”

If Larsen is not chosen to replace Scalia, she will likely remain on Trump’s short list for Supreme Court nominees in the event that Trump must replace more than one justice.

According to the New York Times, as many as three Supreme Court seats may become vacant during Trump’s presidency, possibly shaping the Supreme Court for decades into the future.