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.