President Trump has announced that he has nominated 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court as the replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
“Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline and has earned bipartisan support,” Trump stated in introducing his pick to the public Tuesday night.
“Mr. President, I am honored and I am humbled. Thank you very much,” Gorsuch, an Episcopalian, said to applause in accepting the nomination.
Gorsuch, now 49, had been nominated to the 10th Circuit in 2006 by then-President George W. Bush. He was a graduate of Harvard Law School and has a PhD. from Oxford. He served as a clerk under current Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Gorsuch is known for ruling in favor of the popular craft chain Hobby Lobby, which had sued the Obama administration over its abortion pill mandate. The company had sued to retain the right not to cover contraceptives that it considers to be abortifacients, such as the morning-after pill. Gorsuch pointed to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act in his ruling.
“It is not for secular courts to rewrite the religious complaint of a faithful adherent, or to decide whether a religious teaching about complicity imposes ‘too much’ moral disapproval on those only ‘indirectly’ assisting wrongful conduct,” he wrote in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius. “Whether an act of complicity is or isn’t ‘too attenuated’ from the underlying wrong is sometimes itself a matter of faith we must respect.”
Gorsuch was likewise a part of a ruling in favor of the Roman Catholic Little Sisters of the Poor, which had also sued the Obama administration over the abortion pill mandate.
While it is not known where Gorsuch himself stands on abortion, he is the author of the book “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” in which he concludes that “human life is intrinsically valuable and that intentional killing is always wrong.”
However, some have questioned whether or not Gorsuch would seek to end abortion if the matter came before him on the bench. Andy Schlafly, an attorney and the son of the late Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum—who had supported Trump prior to her death—recently stated that Gorsuch “has never said or written anything pro-life.” He also said that Gorsuch is a “big supporter [of] granting special rights to men who say they have a female … identity.”
But Ed Whelan, who disagrees with both of Schlafly’s assertions, notes for the National Review that Gorsuch had dissented from the majority opinion when his colleagues ruled in Planned Parenthood Association of Utah v. Herbert that that state of Utah could not defund the abortion giant Planned Parenthood.
“Respectfully, the panel in this case not only conducted its own de novo review of the record, it relaxed PPAU’s burden of proof and even seemed to reverse it,” Gorsuch wrote.
“Respectfully, this case warrants rehearing,” he opined. “As it stands, the panel opinion leaves litigants in preliminary injunction disputes reason to worry that this court will sometimes deny deference to district court factual findings; relax the burden of proof by favoring attenuated causal claims our precedent disfavors; and invoke
arguments for reversal untested by the parties, unsupported by the record, and inconsistent with principles of comity.”
Gorsuch has also seemed to indicate that he believes the government should be permitted to erect religious displays on public property, disagreeing with his colleagues who rejected a rehearing in the 2007 case of Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, which involved a Ten Commandments display.
Gorsuch is stated by others as being much like Scalia, including being an “originalist,” that is, seeking to interpret the Constitution in the “original intent” of the Founding Fathers. He cited the high court justice in his acceptance speech as Scalia’s wife sat in the audience.
In an article for the Case Western Reserve Law Review, Gorsuch recalled being overcome with sorrow upon hearing of Scalia’s death. He had been taking a skiing trip when his phone rang with the news.
“I immediately lost what breath I had left, and I am not embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t see the rest of the way down the mountain for the tears,” Gorsuch wrote.
He praised Scalia as being a “lion of the law.”
“He really was a lion of the law: docile in private life but a ferocious fighter when at work, with a roar that could echo for miles,” Gorsuch stated. “Volumes rightly will be written about his contributions to American law, on the bench and off.”
As previously reported, Trump had outlined even before the election that he intended on appointing a Supreme Court justice like the late Antonin Scalia.
“I will strike down Roe v. Wade, but I will also strike down a law that is the opposite of Roe v. Wade,” Scalia outlined in a 2002 Pew Forum. “You know, both sides in that debate want the Supreme Court to decide the matter for them. One [side] wants no state to be able to prohibit abortion and the other one wants every state to have to prohibit abortion, and they’re both wrong.”
“And indeed, there are anti-abortion people who think that the Constitution requires a state to prohibit abortion. They say that the equal protection clause requires that you treat a helpless human being that’s still in the womb the way you treat other human beings. I think that’s wrong,” Scalia further explained in a 2008 “60 Minutes” interview. “I think when the Constitution says that persons are entitled to equal protection of the laws, I think it clearly means walking-around persons.”
He also noted that religion has very little to do with his decisions.
“I try mightily to prevent my religious views or my political views or my philosophical views from affecting my interpretation of the laws, which is what my job is about,” he stated. “They can make me leave the bench if I find that I’m enmeshed in an immoral operation, but the only one of my religious views that has anything to do with my job as a judge is the seventh commandment—thou shalt not lie. I try to observe that faithfully, but other than that I don’t think any of my religious views have anything to do with how I do my job as a judge.”
As previously reported, Trump originally had 21 judges on his Supreme Court list, with Judges William Pryor, Thomas Hardiman and Gorsuch stated to be on his shortlist. Pryor was especially controversial as he had prosecuted “Ten Commandments Judge” Roy Moore and had vowed to uphold Roe v. Wade while serving in the 11th Circuit.
Diane Sykes, likewise on the list, was also controversial as she had written in a Planned Parenthood ruling that abortion is a woman’s “right.”
Trump advisor Leonard Leo is stated to have helped the president with narrowing down the list and making a selection.