Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s selection to be the next Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was introduced to the world on Monday. Despite Trump’s theatrical tricks, Gorsuch, 49, is a serious social conservative about whom civil rights leaders are expressing deep concern.
President Donald Trump shakes hands with 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch, his choice for Supreme Court Justices in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
“Already, we are deeply troubled by statements Judge Gorsuch has made criticizing the role of courts in protecting equal rights—bemoaning an ‘addiction to constitutional litigation’—and decisions that have undermined legal protections for workers, women, students with disabilities, and victims of police violence and employment discrimination,” said NAACP Legal Defense Fund Director Sherilynn Ifill.
An examination of Judge Gorsuch’s legal opinions reveals a reputation for ignoring long-held deference for the Federal government. Proponents of the Affordable Care Act believe he, like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, will work to dismantle it. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which handles thousands of discrimination claims, and the Environmental Protection Agency, along with other Federal agencies, may find Gorsuch voting against them.
Gorsuch is also pro-life. Promotional material for his book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” written in 2006, states that “human life is intrinsically valuable and that intentional killing is always wrong.” Yet, Judge Gorsuch has religiously upheld the death penalty.
Gorsuch was appointed to the appellate court by President George W. Bush in 2006. Gorsuch is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law. He attended Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar and clerked for Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy and Judge David Sentelle of the D.C. Court of Appeals, all conservatives.
Judge Gorsuch was chosen to replace the late conservative Scalia, an opponent of social justice issues. Scalia was known for his bombastic blasts from the bench. He voted to gut the Voting Rights Act and ruled against the Affordable Care Act. He opposed abortion and affirmative action. Scalia became visibly emotional when the Court ruled in favor of marriage equality for gays.
Justice Scalia died suddenly in February 2016. Afterwards, conservatives left the Court with eight justices by refusing to give Merrick Garland, a moderate nominated by the Obama Administration, a hearing or vote. Instead, Senate conservatives wagered on taking the White House later and filling the seat with a justice as staunchly conservative as Scalia. Neil Gorsuch is that conservative, but with a smoother style.
A justice using a plain-text reading of the Constitution would provide cold comfort to women and people of color in the 21st century as a justice of the Supreme Court. Like Scalia, Gorsuch believes in reading the plain text of the Constitution—a document written in 1787, when women could not vote and most African-Americans were enslaved.
Neil Gorsuch is the son of the late Anne Gorsuch (Burford), a Ronald Reagan conservative and the first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. In 1983, she resigned from the EPA while cited for contempt of Congress, according to The New York Times. A subcommittee of the House of Representatives had demanded documents relating to alleged mismanagement of a toxic waste cleanup, and she refused.
Gloria J. Browne-Marshall
For Neil Gorsuch, conservative Senate Republicans have pressed for a public hearing and vote. When Gorsuch became an appellate court judge he had strong bi-partisan support. However, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (NY-D) and many civil rights organizations have pledged to fight this conservative’s confirmation.
Gloria J. Browne-Marshall is an associate professor of Constitutional Law at John Jay College (CUNY). She is a playwright, the author of several books including the recent release “The Voting Rights War,” and writer of a syndicated legal correspondent for ANNIC (African-American News & Information Consortium).