by Lil Tuttle
Yesterday President Trump nominated Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to fill the seat on the U.S. Supreme Court left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Many are hailing the choice as “mainstream” and a campaign promise (to appoint a conservative to the Court) fulfilled.
Judge Gorsuch’s credentials are impressive. He earned a B.A. from Columbia and a law degree from Harvard – both with honors – and a Doctorate in Philosophy from Oxford University. He clerked for Justice Byron White (a Democrat appointee) and Justice Anthony Kennedy (a Republican appointee). A judge for more than a decade, he currently sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, a position conferred to him by a U.S. Senate voice vote.
Those who know Judge Gorsuch call him a “judge’s judge” who follows the law as written, rather than seeking outcomes he personally likes. “A judge who likes every result he reaches,” Judge Gorsuch once wrote, “is very likely a bad judge, reaching for results he prefers rather than those the law compels.”
“With Gorsuch,” writes George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, “conservatives get a nominee with the type of intellectual chops that could fill the void left by Scalia.”
Gorsuch, who is an Episcopalian and would be the only Protestant on the Court, is also very strong on religious freedom. Indeed, that may be an area that could become the very signature of his tenure on the Court. He voted in favor of Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor in their challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate. Gorsuch wrote that the government had transgressed upon “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Gorsuch could also prove highly influential on federalism. His writings reveal a more firm position on states rights than some members like Chief Justice John Roberts, who is still blamed for effectively gutting federalism in the first Obamacare ruling (by finding a violation but then upholding the law under a tax theory despite that violation). Indeed, Gorsuch could prove a driving force to resume the federalism revolution that we saw under the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
President Trump promised to fill the Supreme Court vacancy with someone “in the mold” of Justice Scalia. Early reactions suggest the president fulfilled his campaign promise extremely well in the choice of Judge Gorsuch.