Hours after conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia passed away, the Clinton campaign floated a Texan as a possible replacement.
Wallace Jefferson, a former chief justice on the Texas Supreme Court, was the subject of an email titled “Scalia replacement” written by the president of a George Soros-backed grant-making organization.
“Remember our discussion of Wallace Jefferson, Chief Justice in Texas?” said Open Society Foundations president Chris Stone in the email.
“Yup,” replied Clinton campaign chief John Podesta.
The hacked email was one of thousands released by WikiLeaks in recent weeks and the authenticity of the email could not be independently confirmed. The Clinton campaign declined to confirm the authenticity of the email mentioning Jefferson.
“In a brazen display of collusion, Russian state owned television continues to promote WikiLeaks' releases even before Assange can do it even after it's been proven beyond any reasonable doubt that the Russians are the source of the purported Podesta material,” Clinton campaign spokesman Glen Caplin said in a statement.
Jefferson did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Texas Christian University politics professor Jim Riddlesperger said it’s not surprising that Clinton’s campaign lined up potential replacements for Scalia before his death, even if it comes off as unseemly.
“Political animals are political animals,” Riddlesperger said. “It would probably be a little bit of malpractice on the part of advisers of a candidate if she [Clinton] wasn’t aware of alternatives the day after Scalia died.”
Riddlesperger said the most surprising aspect of the email is that Clinton would consider Jefferson because he is a Republican.
“Obviously, Wallace Jefferson has some attractiveness because he’s a minority appointment and people are constantly looking for more diversity on the court,” Riddlesperger said. “There’s a desire by Democrats to reach out to Texas by reaching across party lines. That’s something for Democrats to make Texas more competitive moving forward.”
Even though Jefferson is a Republican, Riddlesperger says Jefferson’s judicial philosophy could be centrist or left-of-center on the Supreme Court.
“He is seen as a moderate force,” Riddlesperger said. “He was certainly never a controversial justice.”
Jefferson led the Texas Supreme Court from 2004 to 2013 and he currently works in private practice at Texas-based appellate firm Alexander Dubose Jefferson Townsend.
Riddlesperger said Jefferson’s nomination would be historically significant for Texas.
“In the history of the United States there’s been exactly one Texan on the Supreme Court,” Riddlesperger said. “That’s surprising given the size of the state.”
Merrick Garland, chief judge for the District of Columbia Circuit on the U.S. Court of Appeals, was nominated by Barack Obama to fill Scalia’s vacancy after his death. Senate Republicans have refused to move forward on Garland’s nomination.
Clinton has declined to say whether she will nominate Garland and Donald Trump has said he will not nominate Garland if elected.