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Colorado-based appellate judge reportedly emerges as leading contender for SCOTUS nomination

The U.S. Supreme Court is shown Feb. 5, 2009 in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump is reportedly considering a judge who is regarded by many as the "intellectual equal" of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to fill his seat on the nation's highest court.

ABC News reported Tuesday that conservative Judge Neil Gorsuch of the Colorado-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has emerged as a possible leading contender for the seat that has now been vacant for nearly one year.

Scalia passed away suddenly in Texas on Feb. 13, 2016.

Trump said Tuesday that he will decide later this week who he will nominate as the next Supreme Court justice and that an announcement about his decision will come "sometime next week."

Gorsuch was appointed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals by President George W. Bush in 2006. Gorsuch earned his law degree from Harvard University before going on to study legal philosophy at Oxford University in England. From there, he went on to serve as a clerk from 1993 to 1994 under Supreme Court justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy. Gorsuch was a high-ranking official in former President George W. Bush's Justice Department before his appointment to his current post, according to SCOTUSblog.

As for his conservative credentials, Gorsuch has been referred to in the past by some legal scholars as Scalia's "intellectual equal."

"It means that we would see a judge who, while perhaps not as combative in personal style as Justice Scalia, is perhaps his intellectual equal and almost certainly his equal on conservative jurisprudential approaches to criminal justice and social justice issues that are bound to keep coming up in the country," Justin Marceau, professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, told the Denver Post last month.

And at 49, Gorsuch would be a relatively young pick who could serve on the court for decades to come since Supreme Court nominations are lifetime appointments.

Conservatives are hopeful they can once again regain the conservative majority on the highest court after President Barack Obama's three liberal justice picks during his two-term tenure. As president, Trump could end up appointing as many as three Supreme Court justices.

Obama officially put forth Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in March, according to the New York Times. But the Republican-controlled Senate, hoping to have a Republican in the White House after the Nov. 2016 election, never held a vote to confirm Obama's pick. Garland's nomination officially expired at noon on Jan. 3, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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