Neil Gorsuch (1967- ), a US judge, has been named by President Trump to sit on the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court. He must be confirmed by the Senate, which is holding hearings and will likely vote next month.
Since 2006, Gorsuch has sat on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Denver, Colorado. It covers the western states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma and is one step below the Supreme Court.
In 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia died, opening up a seat on the Supreme Court. President Obama named Merrick Garland to take his place. Republicans controlled the Senate and would not give Garland a hearing or a vote, hoping a Republican would soon become president and name a judge more to their liking. And so it was.
Gorsuch is pretty much the same as Scalia or Clarence Thomas, so it would not change the court much. Like Scalia, Gorsuch is a texutalist: he believes in the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law. Also like Scalia, he is an inconsistent originalist, reading the constitution according to its original meaning when it suits him. As a rich White man he should be good at that.
Gorsuch favours business in most cases over workers, customers and government agencies. He does not like to second-guess the police, even when they use excessive force. He is strong on religious liberty, even for Muslims, but narrowly interprets civil rights laws. He did not distance himself from Scalia’s remark that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a “racial entitlement”.
Empathy: In one of his most infamous rulings, he sided with a trucking company that fired Alphonse Maddin for disobeying orders when he feared freezing to death. Of the seven judges who heard the case, Gorsuch was the only one who sided with the company. He said he had “empathy” for Maddin – and yet it did not cross his mind to put himself in Maddin’s shoes when making the ruling.
Humanization: Small wonder Senate Republicans have been trying to humanize him during the hearings. At one point Gorsuch noted:
“the family that skis together stays together”
Most families do not have the money to ski together.
Dark money: Gorsuch seems unconcerned that millions of dollars in “dark money” (money given in secret) are paying for ads pushing the Senate to vote for him. The ads are running in states that Trump won where Democratic senators face re-election in 2018. Gorsuch says forcing the money men to say who they are would “chill” “free speech”.
The NAACP, after reviewing his rulings, opposes his nomination:
“Rather than protect equal rights as enshrined in our Constitution and civil rights laws, Judge Gorsuch’s jurisprudence presents a troubling consistency in key areas of significance to civil rights claimants which, in our view, will adversely affect the ability of racial minorities and others to fully vindicate their rights under our nation’s antidiscrimination laws.”
– Abagond, 2017.
- NAACP: Civil Rights Record of Neil Gorsuch
- Antonin Scalia
- Voting Rights Act of 1965
- The Trump Era
- Mary Elizabeth Taylor – the Black woman sitting behind him in the top picture.