February 7, 2017

A Consensus Pick for the Supreme Court

  • Judge Neil Gorsuch is “a laid back, fly-fishing, fourth-generation Coloradan who also happens to have an Ivy League education, a brilliant legal mind, and an established judicial record.”
  • His record shows respect for the proper role of judges and the Constitution.
  • Judge Gorsuch has garnered accolades from across the political spectrum.

judge neil gorsuch

According to a CNN report on February 1, “Judge Neil Gorsuch is a laid back, fly-fishing, fourth-generation Coloradan who also happens to have an Ivy League education, a brilliant legal mind and an established judicial record.” He will also soon be on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Judge Gorsuch graduated from Columbia University, Harvard Law School, and Oxford University, where he received a doctorate degree as a Marshall scholar. He clerked for Judge David Sentelle of the D.C. Circuit and for Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy. Before being appointed to the bench, Gorsuch worked at the Department of Justice and in private practice. The Senate confirmed his appointment to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006 by voice vote after he received the highest possible rating from the American Bar Association.

Neil Gorsuch Positive Headlines

a humble champion of the rule of law

Although Judge Gorsuch’s resume is impressive, his jurisprudence is what makes him the right choice to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. He has demonstrated firm understanding of the role of a judge, appreciation for judicial independence and the separation of powers, and willingness to rule for unpopular parties if that is what the law demands. As Judge Gorsuch has written, “a judge who likes every result he reaches is very likely a bad judge, reaching for results he prefers rather than those the law compels.”

While commemorating Justice Scalia, Judge Gorsuch gave valuable insight into the proper role of judges. The great project of Justice Scalia, Judge Gorsuch explained, was to “remind us of the differences between judges and legislators.” Unlike legislators, who “may appeal to their own moral convictions and to claims about social utility to reshape the law as they think it should be in the future,” judges should “strive (if humanly and so imperfectly) to apply the law as it is.” Judges should look “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.” They should not “decide cases based on their own moral convictions or the policy consequences they believe might serve society best.”

Judge Gorsuch also understands the importance of the Constitution. In remarks following the announcement of his nomination to the Supreme Court, Judge Gorsuch noted that the Supreme Court’s work is vital “to the protection of the people’s liberties under law, and to the continuity of our Constitution – the greatest charter of human liberty the world has ever known.” His written opinions bear out this belief. He has been a defender of the Fourth Amendment and of constitutionally and statutorily protected religious liberty. He has not been afraid to force the government to prove every element of a crime. He has also been critical of unchecked executive and government power; and he has been a champion of the separation of powers and federalism. He has observed that the “framers worried that placing the power to legislate, prosecute, and jail in the hands of the Executive would invite the sort of tyranny they experienced at the hands of a whimsical king.”

Broad support for confirmation

Given Judge Gorsuch’s respect for the Constitution and rule of law, it is unsurprising that his nomination has garnered accolades from across the political spectrum. As conservative legal scholar Robert P. George noted, “Even people who do not share his political outlook or judicial philosophy, but have read his judicial opinions, recognize him as an intellectual superstar.” Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review called Judge Gorsuch “a careful and thoughtful judge whose jurisprudence is squarely in the mainstream of legal conservatism.”

These conservative writers were joined by Neal Katyal, an acting solicitor general under President Obama, who called Judge Gorsuch “one of the most thoughtful and brilliant judges to have served our nation over the last century. He wrote in the New York Times that Gorsuch “brings a sense of fairness and decency to the job, and a temperament that suits the nation’s highest court.” He noted that Judge Gorsuch’s “years on the bench reveal a commitment to judicial independence” and predicted that “if confirmed, Judge Gorsuch would help to restore confidence in the rule of law.” 

Issue Tag: Judiciary