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Factbox - Appeals court judge tops Trump's Supreme Court contenders list

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Brett Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge in Washington, was seen by some legal experts on Wednesday as the front-runner on President Donald Trump’s list of contenders to fill an imminent vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court is seen as the court nears the end of its term in Washington, U.S., June 11, 2018. REUTERS/Erin Schaff

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s announcement on Wednesday that he will retire at the end of July gives Trump his second opportunity to deepen his imprint on the nation’s highest court after restoring its 5-4 conservative majority last year with the selection of Neil Gorsuch.

Here are the top five contenders and others on Trump’s list for the lifetime appointment. Any nominee will be subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

Brett Kavanaugh of MarylandU.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Kavanaugh, 53, is at or near the top of Trump’s list of possible nominees, said a person familiar with the White House selection process.

Kavanaugh was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2003 by Republican President George W. Bush. Contentious confirmation hearings in the Senate delayed his confirmation until 2006.

Kavanaugh worked for Bush during the recount of the 2000 presidential election results. He then headed the administration’s search for potential judicial nominees. Prior to that, he helped draft the “Starr report” recommending the impeachment of Democratic President Bill Clinton.

In a high-profile decision, Kavanaugh authored an opinion that said the design of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created by Congress after the 2008 financial crisis to check abusive lending businesses, was unconstitutional and its director could be removed by the president.

Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Trump in May 2017 appointed Barrett, was born in 1972, to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. She was confirmed by the Senate in October 2017. She was most recently a professor at Notre Dame Law School in Indiana.

During one of her committee confirmation hearings, Senate Democrats questioned Barrett about her Catholicism and past writings in which she said Catholic judges were in a “legal bind” in cases related to abortion and the death penalty. The questioning led the conservative group Judicial Crisis Network to produce a digital ad attacking the Democrats.

Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Hardiman, 52, was appointed in 2007 to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia by then-President George W. Bush.

Since then, Hardiman has drawn criticism from liberals for a dissenting opinion in a gun control case, which the Alliance for Justice legal advocacy group said suggested he would take an “exceptional broad view of the Second Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution, which gives Americans the right to keep and bear firearms.

Raymond Kethledge of Michigan6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Kethledge, 51, was named by Bush in 2006 to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati and confirmed in 2008. Prior to that, he spent most of his career in private practice.

One Kethledge ruling that gained attention was against the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in a case brought by conservative Tea Party groups that said the agency had targeted them because of their political views.

Amul Thapar of Kentucky6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Thapar, 49, is a judge on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, nominated by Trump and confirmed in May 2017. He was previously a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Thapar is best known for sentencing in 2014 an 84-year-old nun to three years in prison for breaking into a Tennessee military facility used to store enriched uranium for nuclear bombs. The nun was convicted along with two other anti-nuclear activists.

Here are the others on Trump’s 25-person list, from which he has said he will choose a nominee.

Keith Blackwell, Supreme Court of Georgia

Charles Canady, Supreme Court of Florida

Steven Colloton, 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Allison Eid, 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Britt Grant, Supreme Court of Georgia

Raymond Gruender, 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Joan Larsen, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Mike Lee, Republican U.S. senator from Utah

Thomas Lee, Supreme Court of Utah

Edward Mansfield, Supreme Court of Iowa

Federico Moreno, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida

Kevin Newsom, 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

William Pryor, 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Margaret Ryan, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces

David Stras, 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Diane Sykes, 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Timothy Tymkovich, 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Robert Young, Supreme Court of Michigan, retired

Don Willett, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Patrick Wyrick, Supreme Court of Oklahoma

Reporting and writing by Amanda Becker; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Peter Cooney