At last, President Donald Trump has announced his nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court: federal Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, whom some have dubbed “Scalia 2.0.”
At 49, Gorsuch is the youngest nominee to the Supreme Court in 25 years and, if confirmed, could serve on the high court for decades.
In making the announcement Tuesday at the White House, President Trump said, “When Justice Scalia passed away suddenly last February, I made a promise to the American people: If I were elected president, I would find the very best judge in the country for the Supreme Court.
“I promised to select someone who respects our laws and is representative of our Constitution and who loves our Constitution. And someone who will interpret [it] as written.”
Trump added, “This may be the most transparent judicial selection process in history,” noting that he provided a list of candidates to the American people during his campaign and made a pledge to select an individual from that list.
“Millions of voters said this list was the single most important issue to them when they voted for me for president. I am a man of my word,” Trump said. “I will do as I say, something that the American people have been asking for from Washington for a very, very long time.”
Trump continued, “Today, I am making another promise to the American people by nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch … to the United States Supreme Court.”
Trump called Gorsuch to the stage and said, “I have always felt that after the defense of our nation, the most important decision a president of the United States can make is the appointment of a Supreme Court justice. Depending on their age, a justice can be active for 50 years, and his or her decisions can last a century or more and can often be permanent.
“I took the task of this nomination very seriously. I have selected an individual whose qualities define, really, and I mean closely, define what we’re looking for. Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline and has earned bipartisan support.”
The president called Gorsuch’s resume “as good as I have ever seen.”
Watch President Trump’s comments:
“He is a man of our country and a man who our country really needs and needs badly to ensure the rule of law and the rule of justice,” Trump said. “I would like to thank Senate leadership. I only hope that both Democrats and Republicans can come together for once for the good of the country. Congratulations to you and your family. May God bless you. May God bless our glorious nation.”
Gorsuch delivered the following remarks:
Mr. President, thank you very much. Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, you and your team have shown me great courtesy in this process, and you’ve entrusted me with the most solemn assignment. Standing here, in a house of history, and acutely aware of my own imperfections, I pledge that if I am confirmed, I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great country.
For the last decade, I have worked as a federal judge in a court that spans six western states, serving about 20 percent of the continental United States and about 18 million people. The men and women I’ve worked with at every level in our circuit are an inspiration to me. I’ve watched them fearlessly tending to the rule of law, enforcing the promises of our Constitution and living out daily their judicial oaths to administer justice equally to rich and poor alike, following the law as they find it and without respect to their personal political beliefs. I think of them tonight.
Of course, the Supreme Court’s work is vital not just to a region of the country but to the whole, vital to the protection of the people’s liberties under the law and to the continuity of our Constitution, the greatest charter of human liberty the world has ever known. The towering judges that have served in this particular seat of the Supreme Court, including Antonin Scalia and Robert Jackson, are much in my mind at this moment. Justice Scalia was a lion of the law. Agree or disagree with him, all of his colleagues on the bench cherished his wisdom and his humor. And like them, I miss him. …
I respect too the fact that in our legal order, it is for Congress and not the courts to write new laws. It is the role of judges to apply, not alter, the work of the people’s representatives. A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge, stretching for results he prefers rather than those the law demands.
As WND reported, Gorsuch has been a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit since 2006. Gorsuch didn’t face any organized opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate when he was appointed to the Tenth Circuit by President George W. Bush. Gorsuch is married with children and has been living in Boulder, Colorado.
Born Aug. 29, 1967, in Denver, Colorado, Gorsuch’s mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, was the first female head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Ronald Reagan. Gorsuch earned his B.A. from Columbia University in 1988, his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1991, and his D.Phil. from the University of Oxford in 2004. While at Columbia, Gorsuch co-founded the Federalist newspaper and a magazine, the Morningside Review.
Previously, he served as principal deputy, associate attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice. Prior to that, he was in private practice. He was a law clerk for Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy. The U.S. Senate confirmed his appointment to the Court of Appeals by voice vote and was rated unanimously well qualified by the American Bar Association at the time.
Immediately after Trump’s announcement, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, tweeted: “Judge Gorsuch is a tremendous pick for the Supreme Court and I look forward to doing everything I can to ensure he is confirmed by Senate.”
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said: “After the untimely death of the conservative lion Justice Antonin Scalia, I strongly believed that the American people deserved a voice in filling this critical vacancy. President Trump has made an outstanding selection in nominating Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and I am confident that he will preserve Scalia’s legacy on the bench for generations to come.
“Our next Supreme Court Justice must be a steadfast supporter of the rule of law with an unwavering commitment to the Constitution. There is no doubt that Judge Gorsuch meets these necessary qualifications. I look forward to supporting his nomination and urge my Senate colleagues to join me.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan released the following statement:
“In Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump has fulfilled his pledge to nominate a judge who has a demonstrated loyalty to the Constitution and a strong commitment to life. He is a phenomenal nominee for the Supreme Court. His belief in judicial restraint will serve the Court – and the country – very well. I also commend his career-long fight to uphold the constitutional right of religious liberty. I am confident my colleagues in the Senate will confirm Judge Gorsuch.”
On Sept. 23, 2016, Gorsuch was included in a second list of individuals then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump “would consider as potential replacements for Justice Scalia at the United States Supreme Court.”
The following is a photo of Gorsuch with Scalia on the Colorado River. Scalia appears to have addressed the photo to Gorsuch, writing: “To Neil Gorsuch, Fond memories of a day on the Colorado. With warm regards, Antonin Scalia.”
An analysis of the nominee by the SCOTUSBlog website identified parallels between the legal approaches of Gorsuch and the late Scalia.
“With perhaps one notable area of disagreement, Judge Gorsuch’s prominent decisions bear the comparison out,” the report said. “For one thing, the great compliment that Gorsuch’s legal writing is in a class with Scalia’s is deserved: Gorsuch’s opinions are exceptionally clear and routinely entertaining; he is an unusual pleasure to read, and it is always plain exactly what he thinks and why. Like Scalia, Gorsuch also seems to have a set of judicial/ideological commitments apart from his personal policy preferences that drive his decision-making. He is an ardent textualist (like Scalia); he believes criminal laws should be clear and interpreted in favor of defendants even if that hurts government prosecutions (like Scalia); he is skeptical of efforts to purge religious expression from public spaces (like Scalia); he is highly dubious of legislative history (like Scalia); and he is less than enamored of the dormant commerce clause (like Scalia). In fact, some of the parallels can be downright eerie.”
Upon Scalia’s death in 2016, Gorsuch wrote a tribute to the late justice in which Gorsuch discussed and championed Justice Scalia’s method of legal interpretation. Gorsuch wrote:
Judges should instead strive (if humanly and so imperfectly) to apply the law as it is, focusing backward, not forward, and looking to text, structure, and history to decide what a reasonable reader at the time of the events in question would have understood the law to be — not to decide cases based on their own moral convictions or the policy consequences they believe might serve society best. As Justice Scalia put it, “if you’re going to be a good and faithful judge, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you’re not always going to like the conclusions you reach. If you like them all the time, you’re probably doing something wrong.”
Carrie Severino, policy director and chief counsel for the Judicial Crisis Network had this to say about Gorsuch: “He has a clear record of a consistent judicial philosophy and applying that in action. … One of the real values here is he’s someone with solid record and we’re able to assess his experience. Conservatives are still concerned about the ‘David Souter effect.’”
The “Souter effect” is certainly a concern by many conservatives who have been promised originalist appointments in the past, only to see some, notably Souter, devolve into knee-jerk progressives after some time inside the beltway.
Last month, law professor Justin Marceau described Gorsuch as “a predictably socially conservative judge who tends to favor state power over federal power … a judge who, while perhaps not as combative in personal style as Justice Scalia, is perhaps his intellectual equal … and almost certainly his equal on conservative jurisprudential approaches to criminal justice and social justice issues that are bound to keep coming up in the country.”
In 2013, Gorsuch gave the 13th Annual Barbara K. Olson Memorial Lecture established by the Federalist Society in 2001 in honor of Barbara Olson, wife of former U.S. solicitor general Ted Olson, who died in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Of particular note was Gorsuch’s dissent in the Tenth Circuit’s denial of rehearing en banc in Planned Parenthood Association of Utah v. Herbert. As background, in the aftermath of the Center for Medical Progress’ release of videos depicting various Planned Parenthood affiliates’ involvement in harvesting body parts, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert directed state agencies “to cease acting as an intermediary for pass-through federal funds” to Planned Parenthood’s Utah affiliate. But after the district court denied Planned Parenthood’s request for a preliminary injunction against Herbert’s directive, a divided panel ruled that Planned Parenthood was entitled to a preliminary injunction.
His position on the “life” issue was fairly laid out in his book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” which, noted Princeton University Press, “builds a nuanced, novel, and powerful moral and legal argument against legalization [of assisted suicide and euthanasia], one based on a principle that, surprisingly, has largely been overlooked in the debate – the idea that human life is intrinsically valuable and that intentional killing is always wrong.”
Gorsuch also has written in favor of political term limits.
In 1992, he authored a Cato Institute paper arguing that term limits are “constitutionally permissible.”
“Recognizing that men are not angels, the Framers of the Constitution put in place a number of institutional checks designed to prevent abuse of the enormous powers they had vested in the legislative branch,” Gorsuch wrote. “A term limit, we suggest, is simply an analogous procedure designed to advance much the same substantive end.”
The significance of the nomination by Trump couldn’t be more pronounced given the balance of the Supreme Court is at stake, with three conservative justices, one swing vote and four solid liberal jurists in place for the time being.