The GOP gambled big and won big by holding the ninth seat on the Supreme Court open last year pending the presidential election. Almost a year later, Donald Trump gave conservatives exactly what they’d hoped for, naming appellate judge Neil Gorsuch to the bench.
By all accounts, Gorsuch, who at 49 is the youngest nominee to the high court in more than a quarter century, is cut from much the same cloth as the man he would replace, the late Antonin Scalia. He is an originalist and a textualist, and he summarized his judicial philosophy this way in speaking last year about Scalia’s legacy:
“…perhaps the great project of Justice Scalia’s career was to remind us of the differences between judges and legislators. To remind us that legislators 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. But that judges should do none of these things in a democratic society. That 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 Gorsuch has also said, sometimes this means judges must come to legal conclusions they are personally uncomfortable with. We have gotten away from that notion in talking about judges in more political terms, but it is the way judges are supposed to act in our system.
It’s worth noting Gorsuch would be the only justice on the present court to hail from the interior of the country (he’s a native and resident of Denver) and the only Protestant justice. He was immediately praised by conservatives as well as some prominent liberals for his legal brilliance and qualifications for the position:
Not that these observations have stopped several Democrats from immediately announcing their strong opposition to Gorsuch’s nomination. They are walking out on a precarious limb. They can play all the games they want to stall Trump’s nominees, but they would be making an enormous mistake to push for a prolonged filibuster of an eminent jurist like Gorsuch. Many people expect another vacancy on the court during Trump’s term, and provoking the GOP to pull the nuclear option on filibusters of Supreme Court nominees would render Democrats helpless in such a situation. And for what? To try to block the nomination of a man many of them have voted to confirm before:
We’ll see how they want to play it, but I’d be shocked if Gorsuch does not end up taking his place on the Supreme Court.