PITTSBURGH — Judge Thomas Hardiman, a suburban Pittsburgh federal judge on the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pittsburgh, has emerged as one of President Trump’s finalists for the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

If nominated, it marks the first time someone from Pittsburgh has received that nomination since Judge Robert Bork, whose ill-fated 1987 hearings turned the process into political spectacle.

“That marked the moment that presidents stopped getting their way with justices,” said Joseph Mistick, who teaches law at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh with Hardiman.

Mistick, who served as a chief of staff to one Democratic Pittsburgh mayor and on the senior staff of another, calls Hardiman a jurist who people on both sides of the aisle would be comfortable with based on his temperament and balanced approach to the law.

“It does not surprise me at all that Trump would seriously consider Tom for the bench; he is honorable, highly knowledgeable and he has a calm mannerism that is suited for the job,” Mistick said.

“Tom is reasoned in his approach to the law, and in any discussion with him you may walk away perhaps differing with him but you always respect his position,” said Mistick, a staunch progressive Democrat who knows Hardiman very well.

Hardiman, who has already had a sit-down meeting with the president, shares the final list with 11th U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor and 10th U.S. Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch.

Trump said he will announce next week which man will be the nominee to fill the empty seat left by the death of Antonin Scalia last year.

Former U.S. District Judge Robert Cindrich, the man who hired Hardiman as a young lawyer to join his law firm, said the Georgetown law school graduate was anxious to move to Pittsburgh where “the love his life” Lori Zappala lived.

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In Western Pennsylvania, the Zappalas are an iconic Democratic family that includes a former state Supreme Court Chief Justice and the local county district attorney.

“He immediately rose to the occasion as a superb lawyer in our firm from day one. He had a good business sense and was very understanding of the common man. This is a guy who came from humble beginnings and worked his way through law school driving a cab,” he said.

Despite our different political persuasions, I am a pretty staunch Democrat and he is conservative, what he would bring to the bench is stand-out ability to build consensus,” Judge Cindrich said.

“At age 37, to be nominated a federal judge, that is pretty young. When he got there, he was very smart and understood immediately that you need to be able to relate to people and bring peace out of chaos,” said Cindrich.

“Because of his outstanding performance, he got nominated for the court of appeals for the Third Circuit, what I see is a conservative bent but I also see a person who is trying to reach consensus and I see a lot of thoughtfulness and humanity showing through,” he explained.

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“I am pretty biased, but I think he would make an outstanding Supreme Court pick,” Cindrich said.

From conversations with Hardiman in the past few days, Cindrich says the Pittsburgher is humbled by the whole moment, “Whether he gets it or not, one thing will never change, and that is him and his ability to not be altered by circumstances,” he said.

Ken Gormley, president of Duquesne University, who moments before the interview with the Washington Examiner was with Hardiman at a luncheon, calls Hardiman brilliant.

“He is one of the smartest persons I know, he has that rare mixture of a brilliant analytical mind and love of the very working class people that he came from,” he said.

“If you were to take a snapshot of the working class who showed up to vote for Trump last year, he would be in the picture as a guy who stands up for these people because he embodies their work. It’s is where he came from, he was able to work his way up and achieve the American dream using his mind and muscle,” he said.

Gormley, who is a staunch Democrat, and former mayor of an eastern suburban Pittsburgh town said Hardiman “a strong principled conservative” who he sometimes disagrees with his conclusions, “But I have never questioned his integrity and conclusion and that he believes he got there through the best results of what the constitution requires,” he said.

Gormley asked Hardiman to teach one law class at Duquesne, but it came with a stipulation from the Third Circuit judge; he would defer his salary to a scholarship fund for blue collar kids attending Duquesne Law School.

“That is who he is. He refused to take any money for the class and instead set up a fund for students for working class kids scholarships and I saw first-hand how much of a difference that made for these kids,” he said.

Gormley enjoys debating with this political opposite. “He is a really intellectual, I enjoy sparring with him. I have had the honor of having debates with the great legal minds of my lifetime and he stands right up there with them,” he said.

Hardiman is not considered a fringe conservative, which makes him confirmable said Mistick, “And his case track record shows he asks respectable, thoughtful questions, but that does not mean he will not disagree with his colleagues if needed.”

“Though he tends towards more traditional values, his conservatism is principled and even-keeled,” said Cindrich.

Hardiman is on the same Third Circuit bench as President Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 1999.

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