- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s list of potential nominees to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia includes Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice David Stras, a former law clerk for conservative Justice Clarence Thomas.

Stras, 41, issued a statement saying he was unaware of Trump’s announcement before it was reported by the media Wednesday, and that he had no comment on it.

Veteran court watcher Peter Knapp, a professor at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law, called Stras “a very principled, very thorough, very intelligent judge.” He added that Stras takes the language of the statutes as his starting point and sticks to it closely.

“He’s very, very careful to observe the limits of the court’s power and I would think that would make him an attractive candidate for any Republican, not just Mr. Trump,” Knapp said.

The former University of Minnesota law professor was appointed in 2010 by Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Thomas even traveled to Minnesota to administer the oath, and said that Stras was prepared for the job “by training, by experience, by disposition.”

Stras in 2010 called Thomas “my mentor in the law,” but said they differ in how they approach legal questions.

“I remain mindful that the role of a judge is a limited one, and that judges can’t solve every problem. But at the same time, judges play a crucial role in safeguarding liberty and protecting the rights of all citizens,” Stras said.

Stras sided with the 4-2 majorities in a pair of cases in 2012 that gave conservatives key victories in their ballot pushes to require Minnesota voters to show photo identification at the polls and to ban gay marriage in the state constitution. Voters ultimately rejected both measures.

But he has sometimes joined with liberal justices. For example, Knapp cited a 2015 decision in which Stras and since-retired Justice Alan Page teamed up on a stinging dissent against a majority ruling affirming a state law making it a crime for people suspected of drunken driving to refuse to take breath alcohol tests.


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