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Washington • Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump says that if he were in the White House, one of the few people he would consider naming to the Supreme Court is one of Utah's high court members: Associate Chief Justice Thomas Lee.
Lee, the brother of Utah Sen. Mike Lee and son of the late Rex Lee, who was President Ronald Reagan's solicitor general, is one of 11 people Trump named Wednesday as potential nominees he would name to the U.S. Supreme Court. Lee has served on the Utah Supreme Court for six years.
Trump previously said he would release a list of possible candidates to assuage conservatives' concerns about whom he would name to America's highest court. The judges, he said in March, would include those whom "everybody respects, likes and totally admires" and "great conservative judges, great intellects, the people [who] you want."
Thomas Lee did not immediately return a request for comment, but his brother who many conservatives thought might be on this list offered his high praise of Trump's list and especially one possible candidate.
"I don't know everyone on the list, but those I do know would all be great Supreme Court justices," Mike Lee said. "Of course, I do believe one name on that list stands head and shoulders above the rest."
Others on Trump's list are Steven Colloton of Iowa, Allison Eid of Colorado, Raymond Gruender of Missouri, Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, Raymond Kethledge of Michigan, Joan Larsen of Michigan, William Pryor of Alabama, David Stras of Minnesota, Diane Sykes of Wisconsin and Don Willett of Texas.
Thomas Lee clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who swore him into his Utah office in July 2010.
"I believe he is perfectly suited for this office," Thomas said then. "He is a good and decent man of the highest integrity."
Brett Tolman, a former U.S. attorney for Utah who has argued before the Utah Supreme Court, said that Lee is a "very thoughtful" jurist who is small-government oriented and conservative on tax policies.
"If you're looking at that list and you're wondering what kind of judge Donald Trump is considering, [Lee is] about as conservative as you're going to find," said Tolman, chairman of the white-collar and corporate-compliance section at the Salt Lake City firm of Ray Quinney & Nebeker.
Tolman added that Lee is a "law and order" judge, and not an activist judge, and wouldn't bend his opinions if the law and facts don't back him up.
"If you were to poll lawyers in Salt Lake, I think even if they don't politically agree with them, a lot of times they appreciate judges that have such a fair kind of demeanor with lawyers," Tolman said, "and he's always been known for that as a judge."
Lee graduated from the University of Chicago law school and served as a lecturer at Brigham Young University. He also was a shareholder at the Salt Lake City firm of Parr, Brown, Gee & Loveless.