Neil Gorsuch is President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court.
“Judge Gorsuch has a superb intellect, an unparalleled legal education, and a commitment to interpreting the Constitution according to its text,” President Trump said. “He will make an incredible justice as soon as the Senate confirms him. ”
Given Gorsuch’s young age, he could serve on the Supreme Court for over three decades and dramatically shape policy in the United States. So who is Neil Gorsuch, and where does he come down on some of the biggest political issues of today? Here’s what you need to know about him.
1. He Argued in Favor of Hobby Lobby in Their 2014 Court Case
Neil Gorsuch in two cases ruled in favor of Christian organizations that objected to providing their employees with health insurance covering contraceptives.
Before it made its way to the Supreme Court, the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. was tried in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. This was the case in which Hobby Lobby objected to the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.
Gorsuch wrote in his opinion that “the ACA’s mandate requires them to violate their religious faith by forcing them to lend an impermissible degree of assistance to conduct their religion teaches to be gravely wrong…As they understand it, ordering their companies to provide insurance coverage for drugs or devices whose use is inconsistent with their faith itself violates their faith, representing a degree of complicity their religion disallows.”
Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. ultimately went to the Supreme Court, and the court ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby.
Gorsuch also made a similar argument in the case of Burwell v. Little Sisters of the Poor, another challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.
2. He is a Constitutional Originalist
There is disagreement among constitutional scholars regarding how the founding document of the United States should be interpreted in 2017. Some believe that it should be interpreted literally, exactly as the Founding Fathers would have interpreted it in 1787, while others believe it should be treated as a “living document” and that the way we interpret it can change over time. Gorsuch falls into the former category.
Gorsuch explained in a speech that a justice’s job is “to apply the law as it is, focusing backward, not forward, and looking to text, structure, and history to decide what a reasonable reader at the time of the events in question would have understood the law to be — not to decide cases based on their own moral convictions or the policy consequences they believe might serve society best.”
On a related note, Gorsuch believes that those on the left rely too much on changing policy from the courtroom. He wrote in a 2005 article for National Review, “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.”
Jeffrey Rosen of the National Constitution Center told Politico this week that because of the way Neil Gorsuch approaches his cases, there will likely be instances in which liberals are pleased by the way Gorsuch comes down on an issue.
“Like Justice Scalia, he sometimes reaches results that favor liberals when he thinks the history or text of the Constitution or the law require it, especially in areas like criminal law or the rights of religious minorities, but unlike Scalia he’s less willing to defer to regulations and might be more willing to second-guess Trump’s regulatory decision,” Rosen said.
3. He is Against the Legalization of Assisted Suicide & Euthanasia
Gorsuch is against the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide, and, in fact, he wrote an entire book about this issue called The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. In the book, Gorsuch argues in favor of retaining laws that ban these practices.
“It is an argument premised on the idea that all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong,” he writes.
Gorsuch also argues that there is little difference between assisted suicide and euthanasia.
“Ultimately, it is hard to avoid asking whether the assisted suicide-euthanasia distinction some seek to draw reflects anything more than a calculated tactical decision by euthanasia proponents to fight political-legal battles piecemeal in order to enhance their chances of ultimate success,” he writes.
In a 2004 article for Wisconsin Law Review, Gorsuch argues that legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia would bring with it a number of issues, including “additional non-consensual killings due to abuse, mistake, and coercion,” as well as “the possibility of discrimination against minority populations like the elderly, African Americans, the poor or the disabled.”
“Concerned about what might happen to them, many elderly Dutch patients have actually taken to insisting on written contracts assuring against nonvoluntary euthanasia before they will admit themselves to hospitals,” he writes. “And, poll after poll suggests that ethnic minorities in the United States are relatively more troubled by the prospect of legalized euthanasia and its impact on them than their white counterparts. Indeed, it is an unanswered, but interesting, question whether Oregon’s highly homogeneous population (approximately 90% white) contributed in any way to its adoption of the first-ever U.S. law allowing assisted suicide.”
Later in the article, Gorsuch asks whether the legalization of assisted suicide would “create disincentives to the development and dissemination of other more expensive end-of-life options.”
4. He Has Said Little About Abortion
Gorsuch has not made any sort of ruling on abortion, nor has he commented publicly on the issue. This has lead to some within the pro-life community questioning Gorsuch’s qualifications and saying that he won’t be adequately anti-abortion. Pro-life activist Andy Schlafly, for example, went as far as to say that “Gorsuch is not pro-life. That would break Trump’s pro-life pledge to pick Gorsuch.”
He’s referring to the fact that President Donald Trump has said on a number of occasions that his Supreme Court nominee must be pro-life. He has also said that he wants Roe v. Wade to be overturned and for the issue of abortion to go back to the states.
“[B]ecause I am pro-life, and I will be appointing pro-life judges I would think that that will go back to the individual states,” Trump said during a presidential debate. “If we put another two or perhaps three justice on, that’s really what’s going to be. That’ll happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court. I will say this: It will go back to the states, and the states will then make a determination.”
5. He Says the Judiciary Has Become Too Political
In a 2005 piece for National Review, Gorsuch objected to what he saw as the judicial branch of government becoming political and losing its independence.
“Judges come to be seen as politicians and their confirmations become just another avenue of political warfare,” he said. “Respect for the role of judges and the legitimacy of the judiciary branch as a whole diminishes.”
Gorsuch went on to say that there’s no better example of this than the Senate confirmation process and the fact that court nominees are appointed based on their ideological views.
“The judiciary’s diminishing claim to neutrality and independence is exemplified by a recent, historic shift in the Senate’s confirmation process,” he writes. “Where trial-court and appeals-court nominees were once routinely confirmed on voice vote, they are now routinely subjected to ideological litmus tests, filibusters, and vicious interest-group attacks. It is a warning sign that our judiciary is losing its legitimacy when trial and circuit-court judges are viewed and treated as little more than politicians with robes.”
Democrats began threatening to filibuster Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee this week, even before the president announced his selection.
“This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat,” Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley told Politico, referring to the fact that Republicans refused to hold a vote on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. “We will use every lever in our power to stop this.”