WASHINGTON: A brilliant conservative judge with a prestigious resume, Neil Gorsuch is a proponent of traditional so-called family values, a strict reading of the Constitution and the need to protect the role of religion in American society.
The elegant, silver-haired 49-year-old is now Donald Trump’s pick to serve on the Supreme Court—the youngest nominee in a generation.
Largely unknown until just a few days ago, the Colorado native with an Ivy League education—who has served on the federal Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver since 2006—now must win Senate confirmation.
Some Democratic lawmakers, still miffed that the ninth seat on the court sat empty for a year as Barack Obama’s nominee could not even win a hearing from the Republican-controlled chamber, have pledged to make things difficult.
Gorsuch has a pedigree that will reassure Trump supporters, especially given the comparisons many make between him and the late justice Antonin Scalia.
Supporters say he could also win over those Republicans who have been less than enthusiastic about the billionaire property mogul-turned-president.
Gorsuch, known for being extremely polite is also seen as having diplomatic skills and a certain intellectual rigor.
His ability to write incisive rulings and his traditionalist views have fueled the comparisons with Scalia, the towering conservative justice who died in February 2016 — and whose seat Gorsuch would occupy.
The Columbia and Harvard grad says he is flattered by such comparisons, and does not hide his admiration for Scalia, who died at age 79.
Gorsuch said when he learned of Scalia’s death, he was on the ski slopes.
“I am not embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t see the rest of the way down the mountain for the tears,” he said in a speech in April.
Like Scalia, Gorsuch favors what is known as originalism—the idea that judges should interpret the US Constitution by reverting to how it was understood at the time it was written, with no modern filters.
it’s no surprise that he was backed by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, which both work behind the scenes to see a conservative evolution of US law.
By naming Gorsuch to serve on the US high court, Trump has sent a positive message to the so-called “flyover states”—those you fly over to get from the East Coast to the West Coast—that they have not been forgotten.
Those states largely voted for the Republican billionaire, but none of the current eight Supreme Court justices hail from that part of the country.
Gorsuch says he remains attached to his native Colorado, where he likes to go fly fishing and where, with his wife Louise and their two daughters, he raises horses, chickens and goats.
East Coast education
But the judge, who comes from a relatively affluent family, is no stranger to the East Coast. He moved to Washington as a teenager, when his mother was named to head the Environmental Protection Agency under Ronald Reagan.
He earned an undergraduate degree from Columbia University in New York and a law degree from Harvard—shortly after a certain Barack Obama got his.
He then headed across the Atlantic to study at Oxford—which perhaps explains his penchant for quoting Winston Churchill.
Gorsuch knows his way around the Supreme Court building—he was a clerk for the late Byron White, who shared him with Anthony Kennedy who, at 80 years old, may now become his colleague.
He then worked as a litigation attorney for a Washington firm before taking a job in the Justice Department under George W. Bush. It was Bush who would nominate him for the federal court position he took in Denver in 2006.
Sanctity of life, religion
Gorsuch’s opinions are largely known through his writings.
He authored a book on the moral and legal arguments against euthanasia and assisted suicide, and backed companies who refused to provide contraception to their employees, as was called for under Obama’s health care reform.
He also rejects the notion that the courts should revert to federal agencies when a legal point needs to be interpreted—a stance backed by conservatives.
Gorsuch’s trump card, as it were, is that he’s never offered a seriously controversial viewpoint, especially on abortion, that could jam up his confirmation.
If he is confirmed, Gorsuch would join:
— Elena Kagan (56) and Sonia Sotomayor (62), appointed by Barack Obama
—Chief Justice John Roberts (62) and Samuel Alito (66), appointed by George W. Bush
—Stephen Breyer (78) and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (83), appointed by Bill Clinton
—Clarence Thomas (68), appointed by George H.W. Bush
—Anthony Kennedy (80), appointed by Ronald Reagan