President Donald Trump announced this evening that he is nominating 10th Circuit Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court seat that should have gone to President Barack Obama’s nominee. A few good backgrounders on the man who will benefit from last year’s unprecedented Republican obstruction: Eric Citron for SCOTUS blog, Robert Barnes for the Washington Post, and Adam Liptak for the New York Times. Liptak dug up a 2002 article by Gorsuch, in which he lamented the Senate’s treatment of two appeals court nominees “widely considered to be among the finest lawyers of their generation”: John Roberts (the current Chief Justice) and Merrick Garland (who should have been confirmed to fill this vacancy).
USA Today’s justice reporter Brad Heath observed, “It would be hard for Trump to have picked a federal appellate judge more like Scalia than Gorsuch.” Heath posted excerpts from a number of Gorsuch’s opinions in this thread, noting the judge believes in “applying the Constitution’s ‘original public meaning.'” Some of the rulings are counter-intuitive, such as this case in which Gorsuch found “extortion doesn’t violate the Equal Protection Clause if [the] corrupt official solicited bribes from everyone.”
Senator Chuck Grassley praised Gorsuch for being well qualified and having been confirmed unanimously to the appeals court. Speaking to the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble, the Judiciary Committee chair said he hoped Democrats would not filibuster Gorsuch, just as Republicans didn’t filibuster Supreme Court nominees during the first terms of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. What’s missing from this narrative? Grassley never even gave Garland a hearing.
After the jump I’ve posted prepared statements from Grassley and Senator Joni Ernst welcoming the nomination. I also enclose below the Alliance for Justice fact sheet on Gorsuch, which references many of his legal writings. That non-profit’s president Nan Aron described Gorsuch as a “disastrous choice,” because his “record shows no sign that he would offer an independent check on the dangerous impulses of this administration. What it does show is that he would put the agenda of powerful special interests ahead of the rights of everyday people […].”
Gorsuch is only 49 years old, so he will probably serve on the high court for decades. Several analysts believe picking him was an effort to “reassure” Justice Anthony Kennedy “that it would be safe to retire.” Once Kennedy goes and Trump appoints another justice, we can say goodbye to reproductive rights, voting rights, any kind of environmental and labor regulations, consumer protections, and equal rights for women and LGBTQ people. The Supreme Court will for all practical purposes be unavailable as a check on Republican governance.
While conservatives across the country celebrate tonight, a few locals may be disappointed Trump passed over 8th Circuit Appeals Court Judge Steven Colloton of Iowa. Colloton and Iowa Supreme Court Justice Edward Mansfield were both on the long list of possible Supreme Court nominees Trump released during the campaign. By some recent accounts, Colloton was on the president’s short list after the election too. Maybe next time.
From a press release by Senator Chuck Grassley:
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley made the following statement after President Donald Trump announced his intention to nominate Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch to be the next Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court. The Senate Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over the federal courts and will vet and conduct a hearing on the nominee.
Gorsuch was confirmed to the circuit court by unanimous voice vote in 2006 with the bipartisan support of his home state senators Wayne Allard and Ken Salazar. There are 31 sitting senators who were in the Senate at the time of the unanimous confirmation vote, including 11 Democrats. Prior to being a circuit court judge, he practiced law, clerked for two Supreme Court Justices, and earned a doctorate degree in legal philosophy from Oxford.
“Judge Gorsuch is universally respected across the ideological spectrum as a mainstream judge who applies the law without regard to person or his own preferences. By all accounts, he has a record of deciding cases based on the text of the Constitution and the law. That’s important because in our system of government, Congress, not judges, make the laws. I look forward to continuing to review his qualifications and to hearing from Judge Gorsuch himself about his approach to the law.
“Following the death of Justice Scalia as Americans were beginning to cast their votes for the next President, I said that we’d move forward with the next President’s nomination to the Supreme Court, regardless of who won. The President has made his selection and that’s what we’ll do.”
From a news release by Senator Joni Ernst:
“It is critical that the highest court in the land applies the text of the Constitution and statutes impartially. From what I have learned thus far, Judge Neil Gorsuch will demonstrate an unwavering commitment to interpret the law as written, rather than legislating from the bench. The people spoke last November, and our new president has tonight put forward a well-respected nominee who the Senate has previously confirmed with unanimous support. It’s time for Washington to work together – as our constituents expect us to do – and move forward to fill the Supreme Court vacancy with this eminently-qualified nominee.”
From Jason Noble’s report for the Des Moines Register:
“A seat on the Supreme Court is a lifetime assignment, which requires members of the Senate to look into all aspects of a nominee’s record and legal opinions,” Loebsack said in a statement to the Des Moines Register. “From what is currently known about Judge Gorsuch’s positions, I do not believe his views are in the mainstream and therefore should not be confirmed.”
Fact sheet from the Alliance for Justice: