President Trump has nominated 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court seat of the late Antonin Scalia. The debate within the Senate will be fierce. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has already responded: “If you breathe air, drink water, eat food, take medicine, or in any other way interact with the courts, this is a very bad decision.” Aside from that encouraging insight, what do we know about Judge Gorsuch? I contend there are ten things you need to know.
1. His academic credentials are unimpeachable.
Gorsuch completed his undergraduate studies at Columbia University, got his J.D. from Harvard Law School, and earned his doctorate from Oxford.
2. Gorsuch is a popular choice.
The popular website FantasySCOTUS consistently ranked him first among the 22 potential Trump nominees in voting by readers.
3. He has a famous mom.
Anne Gorsuch Burford was President Ronald Reagan’s first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. She was eventually forced to resign over charges of political favoritism.
4. Gorsuch detests judicial activism.
In his writings in lower court decisions, the judge has said, “The politicization of the judiciary undermines the only real asset it has – its independence.” When introduced by Trump Tuesday night, he said, “Any judge who likes all of his own decisions is probably not a very good judge.”
5. He is a textualist.
After Scalia’s death, the judge wrote, “Judges should strive to apply the law as it is, focusing backward, not forward, and looking to the text to decide a case.” In other words, he will make decisions based on the text of the Constitution as it is written.
6. The judge warns of federal overreach.
In August, 2016, Gorsuch wrote a concurring opinion for a case in which he scorched the “Chevron doctrine.” According to The Washington Post, “Chevron” is “the doctrine that provides that courts must defer to permissible agency interpretations of ambiguous statutory language.”
7. Gorsuch has already been confirmed by the Senate – unanimously.
It will be awkward for the Democrats to oppose the same man they just confirmed a few years ago. The Denver Post writes that when Neil Gorsuch was appointed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006, his “nomination was approved on a voice vote” in the Senate. No official tally was taken because Gorsuch’s nomination “wasn’t considered controversial.”
8. Gorsuch is a huge proponent of religious freedom.
Two major religious liberty cases wound up on Gorsuch’s desk. In both cases, he sided with groups seeking to maintain their religious liberties.
9. The judge has not ruled on abortion-related cases.
Despite this fact, he is lauded by most conservative religious groups who seek the overturning of Roe v. Wade because of how he wrote about the value of life in his book.
10. He will be confirmed – but it won’t be easy.
Clearly, the judge does not fall into the “mainstream,” as defined by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY. No one on Trump’s list could gain Democratic support. So two things will likely happen. First, the Democrats will filibuster, meaning Republicans will need nine Senate Democratic votes to confirm the nomination. Second, failing to gain that number, Republicans will invoke the “nuclear option,” changing their own rules, meaning it will only take 51 votes to end the filibuster, rather than 60. This will be consistent with what Senator Harry Reid, D-NV, did a few years ago. And then Judge Gorsuch will be the newest member of the United States Supreme Court.
To quote former President Barack Obama, shortly after his election of 2008, “Elections have consequences.” One of those consequences is that President Trump will get his man on the Court. But the fun has just begun.