Trump Nominates Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court

Trump Nominates Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Tuesday nominated Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge in Denver, to fill the Supreme Court seat left open by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, elevating a jurist whose conservative bent and originalist philosophy fit the mold of the man he would succeed.

“Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline and has earned bipartisan support,” Mr. Trump said, standing beside the judge and his wife, Louise, in the East Room of the White House. “It is an extraordinary résumé — as good as it gets.”

If confirmed, Judge Gorsuch would restore the 5-to-4 split between liberals and conservatives on the court, handing Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, 80, who votes with both blocs, the swing vote.

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At 49, Judge Gorsuch is the youngest nominee to the Supreme Court in 25 years, underscoring his potential to shape major decisions for decades to come. In choosing him, Mr. Trump reached for a reliably conservative figure in the Scalia tradition but not someone known to be divisive.

Mr. Trump, who recognized Justice Scalia’s wife, Maureen, in the audience as he announced his choice, heaped praise on the “late, great” jurist, saying his “image and genius was in my mind throughout the decision-making process.”

Judge Gorsuch said he was humbled by his “most solemn assignment.”

“I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great country,” he said. He also praised Justice Scalia as “a lion of the law.”

The announcement presaged a bitter political battle on Capitol Hill, where Democrats in the Senate, still stung by the Republican refusal to confirm President Barack Obama’s nominee for the seat, Judge Merrick B. Garland, have promised stiff resistance.

A Colorado native who was in the same class at Harvard Law School as Mr. Obama, Judge Gorsuch is known for his well-written, measured opinions that are normally, though not exclusively, conservative.

He holds a Ph.D. from Oxford University, where he was a Marshall Scholar, and a pedigree as a law clerk at the Supreme Court to Justices Byron R. White and Kennedy. President George W. Bush nominated Judge Gorsuch to the federal bench in 2006.

Judge Gorsuch’s personal connections to Justice Kennedy are no accident. By choosing a familiar figure, several officials said, the White House is sending a reassuring signal to Justice Kennedy, 80, who has been mulling retirement.

Choosing a more ideologically extreme candidate, the officials said, could tempt Justice Kennedy to hang on to his seat for several more years, depriving Mr. Trump of another seat to fill.

Still, Judge Gorsuch’s conservative credentials are not in doubt. He has voted in favor of employers, including Hobby Lobby, who invoked religious objections for refusing to provide some forms of contraception coverage to their female workers. And he has criticized liberals for turning to the courts rather than the legislature to achieve their policy goals.

There had been speculation that Mr. Trump would choose someone with a less elite background for the court. The other finalist for the post, Judge Thomas M. Hardiman, was the first person in his family to graduate from college, and helped pay for his education by driving a taxi.

The White House had stoked suspense over Mr. Trump’s court choice in the hours before announcing it. A senior Trump administration official said both Judge Gorsuch and Judge Hardiman, the apparent runner-up, were summoned to Washington for the nomination ceremony. But only Judge Gorsuch appeared at the ceremony shortly after 8 p.m.

In an allusion to the intense foreshadowing he and his team had done to build speculation over the pick, Mr. Trump interrupted his own announcement to marvel at his showmanship: “So was that a surprise?” the president said after announcing Judge Gorsuch’s name. “Was it?”

The East Room was filled with White House officials, Republican lawmakers and reporters as Mr. Trump revealed his choice.

The president, staring down what is likely to be a bitter partisan battle over Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation, expressed hope that he could avoid such a dispute.

“I only hope that both Democrats and Republicans can come together for once, for the good of the country,” Mr. Trump said.

Judge Gorsuch is the son of Anne Gorsuch Burford, who became the first female head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Ronald Reagan. He attended Georgetown Preparatory School, outside Washington, before going to Columbia University.

Democrats, who declined invitations from Mr. Trump to attend the White House announcement ceremony, seemed unlikely to be satisfied with Mr. Trump’s choice. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, has said he is ready to block any candidate he sees as outside the mainstream, a stance that could touch off a Senate showdown.

Judge Gorsuch will need to draw the support of eight Democrats to join the 52 Republicans in the Senate to surmount a filibuster and move forward with an up-or-down confirmation vote. But Mr. Trump is already urging Republicans to change longstanding rules and push through his nominee on a simple majority vote.

Liberal activists rallied in front of the Supreme Court building in a swift condemnation of Mr. Trump’s choice. They derided Judge Gorsuch as a right-wing ideologue who would lay waste to important judicial decisions in areas including civil rights and abortion rights as well as environmental and worker protections.

Nan Aron of the Alliance for Justice called Judge Gorsuch “a disastrous choice,” adding that his record showed “no sign that he would offer an independent check on the dangerous impulses of this administration.” Ilyse Hogue of Naral Pro-Choice America said that Judge Gorsuch “represents an existential threat to legal abortion in the United States and must never wear the robes of a Supreme Court justice.”

Conservative groups started their own push in defending Mr. Trump’s nominee. Within minutes of the president’s announcement, organizers said, the Judicial Crisis Network was to begin the first phase of a $10 million television advertising campaign on the nominee’s behalf, along with a website promoting Mr. Trump’s pick. More than 50 groups were backing the effort, including gun rights and anti-abortion rights activists and the Tea Party.

Tom Fitton, president of the right-leaning group Judicial Watch, called Mr. Trump’s nomination “a major step in the right direction in defining his presidency and moving the Supreme Court away from dangerous and destructive judicial activism.”

“It is good to see the president nominate someone who will follow the rule of law rather than legislate from the bench,” Mr. Fitton said.

Juanita Duggan, the president of the National Federation of Independent Business, an organization representing small businesses, said she was also heartened by the choice, because of Judge Gorsuch’s willingness to challenge “regulatory overreach.”

(Why?)

Published at Wed, 01 Feb 2017 01:22:10 +0000

In Judge Neil Gorsuch, an Echo of Scalia in Philosophy and Style

WASHINGTON — A year ago, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch was midway down a ski slope when his cellphone rang. Justice Antonin Scalia, he was told, had died.

“I immediately lost what breath I had left,” Judge Gorsuch said in a speech two months later. “And I am not embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t see the rest of the way down the mountain for the tears.”

President Trump, in nominating Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, has chosen a judge who not only admires the justice he would replace but also in many ways resembles him. He shares Justice Scalia’s legal philosophy, talent for vivid writing and love of the outdoors.

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Mr. Trump’s selection of Judge Gorsuch was nonetheless a bit of a surprise, coming from someone who had campaigned as a Washington outsider. Judge Gorsuch has deep roots in the city and the establishment Mr. Trump often criticized.

His mother was a high-level official in the Reagan administration. He spent part of his childhood in Washington and practiced law here for a decade, at a prominent law firm and in the Justice Department. And, like all of the current justices, he is a product of the Ivy League, having attended college at Columbia and law school at Harvard.

Judge Gorsuch, 49 — who was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in Denver, by President George W. Bush — is an originalist, meaning he tries to interpret the Constitution consistently with the understanding of those who drafted and adopted it. This approach leads him to generally but not uniformly conservative results.

“Ours is the job of interpreting the Constitution,” he wrote in a concurrence last year. “And that document isn’t some inkblot on which litigants may project their hopes and dreams.”

While he has not written extensively on several issues of importance to many conservatives, including gun control and gay rights, Judge Gorsuch has taken strong stands in favor of religious freedom, earning him admiration from the right.

In two prominent cases, both of which reached the Supreme Court, he sided with employers who had religious objections to providing some forms of contraception coverage to their female workers.

He voted in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores, a family-owned company that objected to regulations under the Affordable Care Act requiring many employers to provide free contraception coverage. Similarly, he dissented from a decision not to rehear a ruling requiring the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns, to comply with an aspect of the regulations.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby in 2014 and vacated the decision concerning the Little Sisters of the Poor in 2016.

Like Justice Scalia, Judge Gorsuch takes a broad view of the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable government searches and seizures.

Judge Gorsuch was born and spent his early years in Colorado, and he returned there when he became a judge more than a decade ago. Michael W. McConnell, who served with Judge Gorsuch on the appeals court and is now a law professor at Stanford, said his former colleague’s Colorado background would add something distinctive to the Supreme Court.

“He’s a Westerner,” Professor McConnell said. “There are so many cases that have to do with the West, and I also think the cultural sensibilities of the West are different. He’s an outdoorsman, and the Supreme Court needs a little bit more geographical diversity.”

In Colorado, Judge Gorsuch is known for his involvement with the outdoors and the local legal community. He lives in unincorporated Boulder County, in a mountain-view community on a property with several horses. He has raised chickens and goats with his teenage daughters, Emma and Belinda, and his wife, Louise, an avid equestrian. He is a black diamond skier and fisherman and hosts regular picnics for his former law clerks with another Tenth Circuit judge, Timothy M. Tymkovich.

Judge Gorsuch has not hesitated to take stands that critics say have a partisan edge. He has criticized liberals for turning to the courts rather than legislatures to achieve their policy goals, and has called for limiting the power of federal regulators.

Nan Aron, the president of the Alliance for Justice, a liberal group, said Judge Gorsuch’s stance on federal regulation was “extremely problematic” and “even more radical than Scalia.”

“Not requiring courts to defer to agency expertise when an act of Congress is ambiguous,” she said, “will make it much harder for federal agencies to effectively address a wide variety of critical matters, including labor rights, consumer and financial protections, and environmental law.”

In a 2005 essay in National Review, written before he became a judge, he criticized liberals for preferring litigation to the political process.

“American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom, relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box, 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,” he wrote. “This overweening addiction to the courtroom as the place to debate social policy is bad for the country and bad for the judiciary.”

Like Justice Scalia, Judge Gorsuch is a lively and accessible writer. Consider the first paragraph of a 2011 libel decision, which dispensed with the throat-clearing and jargon that characterizes many judicial opinions.

“Can you win damages in a defamation suit for being called a member of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang on cable television when, as it happens, you have merely conspired with the Brotherhood in a criminal enterprise?” Judge Gorsuch wrote. “The answer is no. While the statement may cause you a world of trouble, while it may not be precisely true, it is substantially true. And that is enough to call an end to this litigation as a matter of law.”

Judge Gorsuch’s writing differs from Justice Scalia’s in one major way: His tone is consistently courteous and mild, while some of Justice Scalia’s dissents were caustic and wounding.

If Judge Gorsuch is confirmed, the court will return to a familiar dynamic, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a moderate conservative, holding the decisive vote in many closely divided cases.

Judge Gorsuch was born in Denver, but he moved to Washington as a teenager when his mother, Anne M. Gorsuch, joined the administration of President Ronald Reagan as the first woman to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Ms. Gorsuch, known after her remarriage as Anne Burford, resigned under fire from Congress after 22 months.

After law school, he also attended Oxford University in England as a Marshall Scholar, graduating with a doctorate in legal philosophy.

He served as a law clerk for a year to Judge David B. Sentelle, a conservative member of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

After the appeals court clerkship, Mr. Gorsuch served as a law clerk to Justice Byron R. White, then a retired member of the Supreme Court. As is the court’s custom, Justice White shared his clerk with an active member of the court, Justice Kennedy. (When Judge Gorsuch joined the Denver appeals court, Justice Kennedy administered the oath of office.)

Mr. Gorsuch then practiced law for a decade at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, a Washington law firm, before serving in the Justice Department from 2005 to 2006.

He is the author of “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” published in 2006 by Princeton University Press. The book argued that laws banning those practices should be retained.

In a 2002 article reflecting on Justice White’s death, Mr. Gorsuch criticized the Senate’s handling of judicial confirmations. “Some of the most impressive judicial nominees are grossly mistreated,” he said, mentioning two candidates for the federal appeals court in Washington who he said were “widely considered to be among the finest lawyers of their generation.”

One was John G. Roberts Jr., who went on to become chief justice of the United States. The other was Judge Merrick B. Garland, who was confirmed to the appeals court in 1997 after a long delay, but whose nomination to Justice Scalia’s seat last year was blocked by Senate Republicans.

If he is confirmed, Judge Gorsuch will become the 113th justice, taking a seat that has been held not only by Justice Scalia but also by Justice Robert H. Jackson, perhaps the finest writer to have served on the court. “The towering judges that have served in this particular seat of the Supreme Court,” Judge Gorsuch said in his remarks at the White House on Tuesday night, “are much in my mind at this moment.”

But Judge Gorsuch seemed to take special pleasure in remembering the justice who had first hired him as a law clerk, a Westerner whose accomplishments were not limited to the law. “I began my legal career working for Byron White,” he said, “the last Coloradan to serve on the Supreme Court — and the only justice to lead the N.F.L. in rushing.”

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Published at Wed, 01 Feb 2017 03:38:01 +0000