SCOTUS is complete after confirmation of Gorsuch

Hannah Layden, Staff Writer

Neil Gorsuch was sworn in April 10 as the 113th member of the Supreme Court as a newly appointed associate justice, taking the place of the late Antonin Scalia. President Donald Trump said, “the most important thing a president does is appoint great people to the Supreme Court,” a view consistent with many of his supporters. Justice Anthony Kennedy, Gorsuch’s former mentor, administered the judicial oath. This is the first time a former clerk has joined his superior on the Court.

At 49 years old, Gorsuch is the youngest nominee for the Supreme Court since the 1991 nomination of Justice Clarence Thomas. This appointment is a win for conservatives who believe in principles of textualism in statutory interpretation and originalism in interpretation of the Constitution, theories that Gorsuch has followed in his years serving as a judge. He is also a proponent of the “natural law” philosophy.

Gorsuch’s Supreme Court confirmation process divided the Senate down party lines, despite the fact that he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006. He was supported by the American Bar Association and his credentials were viewed favorably by the Senate Judiciary Committee. During his Supreme Court hearing, many of the same Democrats who voted Gorsuch onto the 10th Circuit bench attempted to discredit him. Given this, it would appear that the lack of support by most Democratic senators is political in nature as a repercussion for the dismissal of Merrick Garland’s nomination by former President Barack Obama. Invoking a filibuster meant Gorsuch needed to receive 60 votes rather than a simple majority to overturn the filibuster. The Republican-led House decided to use the “nuclear” option instead, thereby requiring only a majority of 51 votes versus the 60 votes needed to overturn the filibuster.

Many Democrats have said that “going nuclear” to get Gorsuch onto the Supreme Court was unprecedented and that Republicans have “changed the rules” of voting. The truth is a bit more nuanced. Former Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid set the “nuclear option” precedent during the Obama administration that federal judges needed only a majority vote to be seated. Current Republican Majority leader Mitch McConnell decided to follow the precedent set by Reid through applying it at the Supreme Court level.

Scalia fans should be rejoicing as Gorsuch closely follows the principles on which he based his interpretation of law. He does not believe in a “living document” version of the Constitution and will interpret law rather than judge morality. When it comes to statutory interpretation, Gorsuch will look at the meaning of the words in the text rather than what he thinks the legislators intended, a method Scalia practiced and wrote about in multiple books. Gorsuch declared he will not have any qualms about overturning past decisions if he believes they were decided incorrectly, particularly in cases of religious freedom, having had a track record of defending the Religious Freedom Preservation Act.

With the swearing in of Gorsuch, the Supreme Court has gained a knowledgeable, experienced, levelheaded justice who will likely make his mark in his first year voting on deadlocked cases. He, along with he rest of the Court, have the privilege and the burden of making decisions that will affect the entirety of the country for years to come. There is no denying Gorsuch is qualified to take on the position, and the nation will soon see where his views align on some very difficult decisions and what kind of justice he will prove to be.

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