By Peter White
NASHVILLE, TN – Neil Gorsuch will go to Capitol Hill next month where Senate Democrats lack the votes to block his confirmation to the Supreme Court. While the outcome is predictable the Gorsuch nomination didn’t begin that way. It unfolded a bit like a James Bond movie and a bit like the reality TV show, “The Apprentice”. The President’s pick was secretly driven down a mountain road in Colorado and he boarded a military plane that took him to Washington where he spent the night at a friend’s house.
One of the other three judges on the short list to replace former Justice Antonin Scalia was Judge Thomas Hardin of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Pittsburgh. Hardin was sent on a fake road trip as a ruse to keep the press guessing until the last moment in the East Room of the White House when President Trump called Gorsuch to step forward. On cue, Gorsuch and his wife, Louise, came out from behind a door where they had been hiding and approached the podium. The President joked ““So was that a surprise? Was it?”
Not really. Conservatives were hoping the President would appoint someone who would anchor the conservative direction of the court for years to come. Gorsuch, 49, fits the bill.
Judge Gorsuch was nominated to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by former President George W. Bush in 2006. He grew up in Washington and Colorado, and comes from a well-connected Republican family. His mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, served in the Reagan administration as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Gorsuch went to Harvard, Columbia, and earned a doctorate in legal philosophy at Oxford. He is an avid fly fishermen and expert snow skier.
Gorsuch is a strict constitutionalist like Scalia.
“I think his core belief is that he takes very seriously the idea that the constitution places limits on government,” says Boucek of the Beacon Center of Tennessee.
Boucek said that people who don’t like the President should be “pretty pleased” with Gorsuch because he won’t be as deferential to governmental agencies as Justice Scalia. Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion in a separation of powers case that held too much deference and authority is given to government agencies.
Gorsuch decided a case where police raided the home of a suspect who had posted “No Trespassing” signs but the police had not obtained a search warrant.
However, in 2013 Gorsuch agreed with a lower court’s ruling that a police officer was protected under qualified-immunity law after he killed a 22-year-old student with a stun gun.
He settled a case against a school that had a boy arrested for interrupting class with repeated burping noises.
In other cases, Gorsuch has been ideologically conservative. He sided with of Hobby Lobby owners who didn’t want to pay health insurance for their employees if it included birth control or abortion. Gorsuch decided against workers’ rights in favor of the owners whose religious beliefs prohibited abortion.
Gorsuch thinks judges should stay out of politics and interpret the law as it is written rather than reshape the law based on personal convictions or beliefs about social benefits.
“American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom,” Gorsuch wrote in a 2005 National Review article.
He criticized liberals for “relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box, as the primary means of effecting their social agenda”.
Gorsuch has also written a book about euthanasia. He’s against it.
Gorsuch faces a confirmation fight in the Senate. Democrats are still feeling the sting from Republicans who refused to confirm Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s choice to replace Scalia, who died a year ago this month.
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) met with Gorsuch in his Washington office earlier this monoth. “I could not be more impressed with Judge Gorsuch and enthusiastically support his nomination,” Corker said. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) tweeted: ”Judge Gorsuch is an impressive individual w/ outstanding academic credentials & an excellent judicial record”.
If Gorsuch is confirmed he could be sitting on the bench by April.
“The problem with Neil Gorsuch is that he has a complete misunderstanding of the Constitution,” says Dr. Edward Rubin, professor of law and the director of Vanderbilt’s Law and Government program.
“He claims to be a strict constructionist but there is no such thing. No modern theory of interpretation thinks that’s a coherent way to approach a text (like the Constitution),” Rubin said.
Gorsuch will be like Scalia who “had no respect for the concept of legality at all when there was an issue that generated an emotional or ideological response from him” Rubin said.
Speaking about Scalia, Rubin said: “In the Heller case he overruled 200 years of settled understanding to reach out and strike down a gun control law in Washington D.C.“ Rubin noted two other cases where Scalia struck down gun laws on federalism grounds but with arguments that were so incoherent, “it was clear he was not concerned about federalism but about guns.
“When you wave the flag of strict constructionism, it is really a kind of ideological thinking that is the very opposite of careful legal thought,” Rubin said.
Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing will begin March 20 in Washington.