President Donald Trump will nominate Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The President announced the decision via Facebook Live from the White House.
A graduate of Harvard, Oxford, and Columbia, Gorsuch currently serves on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. At only 49, Gorsuch is the youngest Supreme Court nominee in over 30 years.
Gorsuch is widely respected, and many conservative leaders were openly rooting for his nomination in the hours leading up to the announcement.
“Judge Neil Gorsuch is really amazing: brilliant and sound. I hope he is the SCOTUS nominee” tweeted ERLC President Russell Moore, while conservative scholar Ramesh Ponnuru called Gorsuch “A worthy heir to Scalia.”
In many ways, Gorsuch is seen as a Scalia-esque judge. Like Scalia, Gorsuch is a strict originalist and textualist. In a tribute to Justice Scalia written last year after his death, Gorsuch explained and endorsed Scalia’s judicial philosophy:
“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 Justice Scalia put it, “if you’re going to be a good and faithful judge, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you’re not always going to like the conclusions you reach. If you like them all the time, you’re probably doing something wrong.”
Jeffrey Rosen of the National Constitution Center noted that Gorsuch may be an effective conservative Justice in multiple ways. “The real appeal of Gorsuch nomination is he’s likely to be the most effective conservative nominee in terms of winning over Anthony Kennedy and forging conservative decisions on the court,” Rosen said.
Although Gorsuch has very little history of rulings on abortion-related cases, he is considered to be solidly pro-life. In his 2006 book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, he wrote, “…all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.” He has also argued strongly against the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide.
A strong proponent of religious liberty, Gorsuch has a history of pro-religious freedom rulings. When Hobby Lobby v. Burwell was heard by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Gorsuch ruled that the Obama Administration’s contraceptive mandate was unconstitutional. He also ruled in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor in their case related to that same mandate.
His views on gay marriage are not known, as he has not ruled on any gay marriage-related cases. However, in a 2005 piece in National Review, Gorsuch specifically listed gay marriage as an example of judicial activism.
“American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom … as the primary means of effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage to assisted suicide to the use of vouchers for private-school education,” Gorsuch wrote.
His path to confirmation is unclear. Senate Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, have pledged to filibuster any Supreme Court nomination. Republicans hold 52 seats in the US Senate, eight votes away from a filibuster-proof majority. However, Trump has expressed his willingness to use the so-called “nuclear option” to force Gorsuch’s nomination through for a confirmation vote. Under those rules, a cloture vote would only require a simple majority.