Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution dictates that “The President…shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States.” On Tuesday, January 31st, President Donald J. Trump exercised this duty for the first time in office. Considered the most contentious Supreme Court nomination in the 21st century, President Trump could not have made a better selection for the highest court in the nation.
Selecting Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacant seat following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia keeps the President’s promise to appoint a conservative justice, one who will interpret the Constitution the way the Founders intended.
Trump has not only sent a clear message about his domestic ideology, considering issues such as the separation of powers and the role of the federal government, but also proved both his critics and even some of his supporters wrong, by appointing one of the most conservative judges in the federal circuit.
Neil Gorsuch has an impeccable judicial history. He served on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Colorado, and has previously clerked for two Supreme Court justices: Byron White and Anthony Kennedy, who he will now be serving along side with. Mr. Gorsuch is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he received a Truman scholarship. Interestingly, while an undergraduate at Columbia, Mr. Gorsuch co-founded The Fed, the independent student newspaper. How familiar!
More importantly, Judge Gorsuch has a conservative judicial philosophy; believing in a textualist approach to interpreting the law and a distinct separation of powers. In his own words last April, he said the duty of judges interpreting the law is to “apply the law as it is, focusing backward, not forward, and looking to the text… not to decide cases based on their own convictions or policy consequences they believe might serve society best.” Gorsuch has a strong originalist philosophy, one marked by illuminating law not through personal conviction or moral stance but a close inspection of the literal meaning and intent for which the law was written.
Judge Gorsuch goes even further in seeking to protect the government’s separation of powers, a key tenant of American democracy which has been eroded to such a large degree, as to become almost unrecognizable from its intended state. Under the Obama administration, the executive branch had sought to centralize power at the expense of Congress, and the courts turned into battlegrounds for policy-making. However, lost in this turmoil was the balance that makes the American system so successful, which is why Gorsuch is a breath of fresh air. He states, “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.”
Additionally, Gorsuch takes an even more distasteful view of the “Chevron” rule, which essentially allows executive agencies to interpret statutes as they see fit, leaving the courts and legislature powerless. In 2016, he wrote that this imbalance “permit[s] executive bureaucracies to swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power and concentrate federal power in a way that seems more than a little difficult to square with the Constitution of the framers’ design.” This adds up to a judge who will sternly defend this key feature of democracy and look to reel in the modern view of the Supreme Court as an alternative form of a legislature.
While Mr. Gorsuch awaits to have his hearing, there is little in his résumé or ideological beliefs to lead anyone to believe he will have trouble being confirmed. He will seek to restore the balance of power lacking in today’s government.