It has been nearly a year since the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In that time, we have witnessed a revolt by Senate Republicans over Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, a presidential election in which Republican’s promised a nominee to succeed Scalia, and now, the nomination of Neil Gorsuch. But who exactly is President Trump’s nominee?
Neil Gorsuch, age 49, if confirmed, would become the youngest sitting Supreme Court Justice since Clarence Thomas was confirmed as an Associate Justice in 1981 under George H.W. Bush’s administration. Like both Thomas and Scalia, Gorsuch is considered an ardent originalist, adhering to a strict and textual interpretation to the Constitution. Those who have read his opinions seem to attribute him with a quality not typical of judicial proof: he’s funny. Perhaps it is only fitting he serve as the replacement to a justice who routinely used imaginative phrases such as “argle-bargle,” “blah, blah, blah garbage” and “interpretive jiggery-pokery”.
In terms of education and judicial experience, Gorsuch is extremely well qualified. He obtained his bachelors degree from Columbia University in 1988 before going on to receive his Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School in 1991. Additionally, he has a Doctorate in Legal Philosophy from the University of Oxford, which he recieved in 2004.
Although his academic record is stellar, his actual legal experience may be considered even more impressive. Following his tenure at Harvard Law, Gorsuch served as a clerk for Judge David Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He also served as a clerk for Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy. Between 1995 and 2006 he worked as a partner for the reputable Kellog Huber, Hanson, Todd, Evans and Figel, in addition to briefly serving as a deputy associate attorney general. From 2006 onward, he has served as a Judge for the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
For his 2006 seat on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, Gorsuch was also subjected to the nomination process. During this time, it should be noted that he received high praise from members of both parties. In fact, during his senator confirmation, no senator objected to the “intelligent, thoughtful and appreciative nominee.” Ken Salazar (D-Col) would also praise Gorsuch as having “impressive credentials.”
Although it is clear that he is highly qualified in terms of education and experience, the real test of confirmation will, unfortunately, be far more political. Gorsuch’s stances on many of the most divisive issues facing the United States are practically as unclear as the vocabulary of his predecessor. On immigration, he has offered no definitive ruling.
However, being an ardent Constitutionalist, he has stated “A government of diffused powers, [omit] is a government less capable of invading the liberties of the people.” This seems to signal trouble for a President who has issued executive orders at an unprecedented rate and of remarkable scope. On abortion, Gorsuch has never given an opinion, but has been known to err on the side of religious freedom. What many liberals may find appealing is the fact that Gorsuch is a conservationist. During his tenure as a Judge for the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, he sided with renewable energy in upholding the environmental regulations placed upon the coal industry. His stances on other issues such as gun rights, recreational marijuana and other hot button topics remain shrouded in mystery.
Conclusively, it seems as though Neil Gorsuch will be an incredibly difficult nominee for Democrats to oppose. Despite the fractured nature of our federal government’s legislative branch, rejecting such a well qualified jurist would be almost impossible for congressional Democrats to justify. Throughout his career he has been well liked by colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and despite having some possibly extreme right wing views, he is generally viewed as having a “humble, articulate demeanor.” During the election, President Trump consistently promised a heir to the late Antonin Scalia, a man who stood as a pillar of originalism for 30 years. In Gorsuch, it appears President Trump has fulfilled that promise. All that remains to be seen is whether or not congressional Democrats can justify contesting a seemingly impeccable nominee. Hopefully Gorsuch will be confirmed before April, say GOP lawmakers.