Following President Donald Trump’s tweeted announcement he’d made a decision regarding his Supreme Court pick, a curious thing happened. Several unconfirmed Twitter accounts for Neil Gorsuch — a justice on the Denver, Colorado 10th Circuit Court of Appeals — appeared. By itself this is meaningless, but according to the potentially spurious profiles, Gorsuch was an “Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.” Seeing as how his name isn’t among the eight justices who’ve served since the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2016, what gives?
Turns out Gorsuch, whom the Denver Post describes as a “fourth-generation Coloradan and conservative jurist who has written against euthanasia and in favor of political term limits,” is Trump’s pick to fill Scalia’s vacancy. Former President Barack Obama tried to do the same with Merrick Garland in March, but the Republican-controlled Congress wouldn’t grant the judge a hearing. Senate Democrats promised to filibuster Trump’s nominee but seeing as how the GOP maintains the numbers, its success remains to be seen.
Whatever happens, here’s what you should know about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch going forward.
He’s A Big Fan Of Hobby Lobby (And Religion)
Before the Supreme Court voted 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby against provisions of the Affordable Healthcare Act — specifically those requiring companies to cover health care costs objectionable on religious grounds — Gorsuch battled on the company’s behalf. In Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius he voted in accordance with the “Free Exercise Clause,” a section of the First Amendment that states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In his concurring opinion with the other 10th Circuit judges, Gorsuch wrote: “it is not for secular courts to rewrite the religious complaint of a faithful adherent.”
But Not Legalized Euthanasia
True to the conservative Republican justice’s pro-life religious beliefs, he’s not too fond of euthanasia. The practice of assisted suicide was legalized in Gorsuch’s native Colorado in November, though 10 years earlier he published a book on the subject, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. “All human beings are intrinsically valuable,” the Post quoted, “and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.” As a 10th Circuit judge, however, Gorsuch hasn’t heard any significant cases pertaining to euthanasia — though proponents and critics alike point to it as an indicator of his conservative leanings.
He’s What Legal Scholars Refer To As A ‘Textualist’
Like Scalia, with whom Gorsuch was close, the Colorado judge is an ardent practitioner of judicial textualism. In other words, he “interprets the Constitution and statutes as they were originally written.” Scalia famously stuck to this particular method of jurisprudence throughout his legal career — especially during his year as a Supreme Court justice, much to the ire of his centrist and progressive critics on the left. Perhaps the most blatant example of this is United States v. Games-Perez, in which Gorsuch urged his 10th Circuit colleagues to review its use of legislative history “to make criminal what might otherwise be innocent.” If there wasn’t a law with which to determine a defendant’s guilt, he argued, then the court shouldn’t try to impose its own take.
He Is Very, Very Young
The judicial qualities that attract Trump and his administration to Gorsuch are the same ones that endeared Republicans to Scalia. Perhaps this is why the Supreme Court nominee’s biggest plus is his youth. Compared to the eight justices who currently sit on the highest court in the land, Gorsuch is only 49 years old. If confirmed, the Colorado judge would be the youngest nominee in 25 years and, behind Obama nominee Elena Kagan (56), the youngest member of the Supreme Court. Such would result in several decades’ worth of service — not only to the court but to the Republicans who want to see Gorsuch on it.
Here’s a video clip of Trump announcing his first SCOTUS nominee.
And here’s Gorsuch making his public debut to accept Trump’s nomination.