A lawyer’s path to the U.S. Supreme Court rarely runs through places like southern Ohio and eastern Kentucky, but it is about time it did. One of President Donald Trump’s excellent choices to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy stands out for those of us who have served in law enforcement: our fellow former prosecutor, Judge Amul Thapar.
Judge Thapar currently sits on the federal court of appeals — just one rung below the Supreme Court — but he made his reputation as a tough-as-nails federal prosecutor who put drug dealers, terrorists, fraudsters, and violent criminals in jail. We served with Judge Thapar as U.S. Attorneys and know how tough and formidable he is.
Judge Thapar served as a federal trial prosecutor in Ohio before being appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate as the U.S. Attorney—the top federal prosecutor—in the Eastern District of Kentucky. United States attorneys are tasked with protecting the public and punishing criminals while respecting federalism, the separation of powers, and individual rights as enshrined in the Constitution. It is a challenging job that requires tremendous judgment, unassailable integrity, a keen intellect and dedication to justice and the rule of law.
Judge Thapar embodies all those qualities. He demonstrated it time and again while serving on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee. This group addressed the nation’s toughest—and often least-glamorous—law-enforcement challenges, including drugs, terrorism, violent crime, and child exploitation.
Judge Thapar was an invaluable member of the Committee, because he knew law enforcement inside and out. He was one of the first in the nation to focus on mortgage-fraud prosecutions, even before the financial crisis, while leading the Southern Ohio Mortgage Fraud Task Force. And in Kentucky, he worked tirelessly to combat the epidemic of prescription drug abuse.
After his appointment to the trial bench, he did not let up. He worked hard to interpret the law correctly and explain it coherently. He volunteered to hear extra cases and speak to law students across the country about the proper role of a judge in our democracy.
The Supreme Court needs a justice with Judge Thapar’s experience from middle America. As the Court considers the most important questions of law, it is essential that the justices understand how things work in the trenches. Judge Thapar has been in the trenches with us. He has protected the innocent and prosecuted the guilty.
Judge Thapar is tough, yet understands that justice requires humility. That as a member of the Supreme Court, he should be guided by restraint and respect. He understands he is on the bench to interpret the law and apply it to the facts, not to legislate from it. With Judge Thapar, the President and the country will get a jurist with a spine of steel and respect for our Constitution: someone who knows how the law works in practice in the real world of Kentucky and Ohio, and someone who will do whatever it takes to apply it faithfully as our Founders envisioned.
Amul Thapar would be a fantastic addition to the Court. He would bring intellect, humility and middle American common sense to the highest court in the land.
Johnny Sutton is a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, Marty Jackley, currently the attorney general of South Dakota, is a former U.S. attorney for the District of South Dakota.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.