5 Things You Should Know About Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump nominated appellate judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court. Trump fulfilled his pledge to select a nominee "in the mold of Antonin Scalia," for Gorsuch seems cut from exactly the same cloth.
Like Scalia, Gorsuch is both a textualist and an originalist — he interprets legal provisions as their words were originally understood, and not according to doctrines like the "Living Constitution." This is important, and points to how he will rule on pivotal cases if confirmed by the Senate.
1. Young but well qualified
Gorsuch, at the age of 49, would be the youngest Supreme Court justice in 30 years (since Clarence Thomas was confirmed at age 43). But this relative youth does not translate to inexperience.
Gorsuch attended Columbia University and Harvard Law School, and then he clerked for Washington, D.C. Circuit Court judge David Sentelle. He also clerked for Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy in the years 1993 and 1994. Following these clerkships, he studied for a doctorate of philosophy at Oxford University under the legal philosopher John Finnis.
Next, he spent ten years at a law firm in Washington, D.C., and then worked for the Justice Department under President George W. Bush. Bush nominated him to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, where he has served ever since. This court covers Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico. Gorsuch was confirmed quickly and without controversy.
2. Passes Scalia's diversity test
The late Justice Scalia laid out a blueprint to achieve diversity on the Supreme Court. While Gorsuch does not check off every single box, he does represent a strong step in the right direction.
In his scathing dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), the case that legalized homosexual marriage across America, Scalia argued that there should be "no social transformation without representation." He attacked the current makeup of the Court:
Take, for example, this Court, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single Southwesterner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count). Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans), or even a Protestant of any denomination.
Gorsuch studied law at Harvard, but he also studied at Oxford. He grew up in "the vast expanse in-between," the southwestern state of Colorado — a true western state if there ever was one. He is also a Protestant, specifically an Episcopalian.