Judge Diane S. Sykes, Short-List SCOTUS Nominee


Judge Diane Sykes is one of the top contenders in President Trump’s short list for Supreme Court Justice. President Trump referenced Sykes and another candidate, Judge William Pryor, by name in February of 2016 as prospective Supreme Court (SCOTUS) nominees(i). Hon. Sykes was also considered as a possible SCOTUS nominee by President George W. Bush in 2008.

Personal Background

Diane Schwerm Sykes was born on December 23, 1957 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Sykes earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism from Northwestern University in 1980 and earned J.D. from Marquette University Law School in 1984)(ii). Sykes is the former wife of conservative radio talk show host Charlie Sykes.

Judge Sykes once referred to herself as an “originalist-textualist.”(iii)

Professional and Political Background

Sykes clerked for Judge Terence T. Evans at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. She worked in private law as a litigator for the firm of Whyte & Hirschboeck in Milwaukee from 1985-1992. In 1992, she was elected to a new trial judge seat on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court. From 1999-2004, she served on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
In March 2003, President G.W. Bush nominated Sykes to the Seventh Circuit. She was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2004; the Senate confirmed her 70-27 in June of the same year.

Legal Opinions of Note

1st Amendment

  • Korte v. Sebelius (2013). Judge Sykes ruled in favor of a preliminary injunction for two Catholic families and their businesses. The Catholic owners of the secular businesses “operate them in conformity with their faith-based convictions”(iv).
  • Christian Legal Society v. Walker (2006). Southern Illinois University’s School of Law claimed that the Christian Legal Society’s policies on membership (they did not allow those who engage in or affirm gay conduct into the group) violated the university’s nondiscrimination policies and as such, the Dean revoked their official student organization status. Judge Sykes stated the group did not violate the affirmative action policy of the university and that they have a constitutional right to continue receiving government subsidies, stating, “Subsidized student organizations at public universities are engaged in private speech, not spreading state-endorsed messages.” Hon. Sykes further ruled for the Plaintiff’s injunction(v).
  • Eden Foods, Inc. V. Sebelius (2013). The Catholic business owner and his corporation lost coverage from Blue Cross Blue Shield as they were mandated by the ACA to require contraception coverage. Eden foods sought a preliminary injunction against Blue Cross Blue Shield. They were denied as they had no standing to challenge laws that the corporation (Blue Cross Blue Shield) must “obey under risk of legal penalty.”(vi)
  • American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois v. Anita Alvarez (2012). Judge Sykes declared that an Illinois state law making the private recording police officers on-duty and in public a felony offense, unconstitutional. She wrote in the majority opinion that:
    “The Illinois eavesdropping statute restricts far more speech than necessary to protect legitimate privacy interests; as applied to the facts alleged here, it likely violates the First Amendment’s free speech and free-press guarantees.”(vii)

2nd Amendment

  • Ezell v. City of Chicago (2011). Hon. Sykes and two other judges on the panel reversed the District Court’s denial of an injunction by plaintiffs regarding the City of Chicago’s law denying firing ranges in the city while requiring one hour of range time in order to legally own a gun, writing that(viii):

    The Court emphasized in both cases that the “central component” of the Second Amendment is the right to keep and bear arms for defense of self, family, and home.”

Voting Rights

  • Frank v. Walker (7th Cir. 2015). Issue: (1) Whether a state’s voter ID law violates the Equal Protection Clause where, unlike in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, the evidentiary record establishes that the law substantially burdens the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of the state’s voters, and that the law does not advance a legitimate state interest; and (2) whether a state’s voter ID law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act where the law disproportionately burdens and abridges the voting rights of African-American and Latino voters compared to White voters(ix). Hon. Sykes served on a panel with two other judges (both republicans); the panel ruled that a Wisconsin voter ID law was constitutional. The ACLU referred to the law as “voter suppression.”

Hon. Diane Sykes has a consistent record of supporting and defending the Constitution and rule of law. This author could find no valid source indicating that any judicial rulings might conceivably been considered in support of anything other than the original intent of the Constitution.

i: http://www.politico.com/story/2017/01/trump-strategy-supreme-court-233106
ii: http://www.fjc.gov/servlet/nGetInfo?jid=3074&cid=999&ctype=na&instate=na
iii: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZ-EGHZj5vY
iv: http://lawreview.law.miami.edu/korte-v-sebelius-others-religious-challenges-affordable-care-act/
v: http://lawreview.law.miami.edu/korte-v-sebelius-others-religious-challenges-affordable-care-act/
vi: http://lawreview.law.miami.edu/korte-v-sebelius-others-religious-challenges-affordable-care-act/)
vii: http://www.abajournal.com/files/EavesdroppingLaw.pdf, p. 3
viii: http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/frank-v-walker/
ix: https://www.aclu.org/cases/frank-v-walker-fighting-voter-suppression-wisconsin