By Kinsley Prendergast, Collegian Contributor
(The Denver Post)
In the few weeks since the Inauguration, Donald Trump has made countless shocking announcements and major decisions. One of his most crucial moves came on Tuesday, January 31st, though; on that day, Trump announced his U.S. Supreme Court nominee choice to replace Judge Antonin Scalia, who died unexpectedly a year ago. His choice was a relatively unknown, federal appellate court judge from Colorado, named Neil Gorsuch.
Gorsuch is the second nominee named to replace Scalia, after Senate Republicans blocked former President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland. Although Garland has an unprecedented number of years of experience as a federal judge and is a moderate Democrat with good bipartisan standing, Senate Republicans refused to hold confirmation hearings or a vote, leading to the expiration of Garland’s nomination on January 3rd.
Born in Denver, but raised partially in Washington D.C., Gorsuch is the son of David Gorsuch and Anne Gorsuch Burford, the first female head of the EPA. He attended Georgetown Preparatory School and Columbia University, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, wrote for the Columbia Daily Spectator, and co-founded an alternative student newspaper, The Fed. After graduating from Columbia, he earned his Juris Doctorate from Harvard, where he received a Truman Scholarship and was the editor of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. Finally, he attended University College, Oxford, where he received a Doctor of Philosophy in Law and was a Marshall Scholar.
When he started his professional career in Washington, D.C., Gorsuch clerked for United States Court of Appeals Judge David B. Sentelle., and United States Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy. Following his clerkships, Gorsuch served as a lawyer for the firm Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, and was a Thomson Visiting Professor at the University of Colorado Law School, before becoming the Principal Deputy to the Associate Attorney General, Robert McCallum. In 2006, Gorsuch became a judge back in his home state of Colorado, after he was nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit by former President George W. Bush. Today, he is married to his wife Louise, and has two daughters, Emma and Belinda.
Gorsuch, who is expected to begin confirmation hearings within the next six weeks, is known as an all-around conservative judge and a proponent of both textualism and originalism. Textualism is the idea that laws should be interpreted literally. Originalism is the concept that the Constitution should be interpreted as it was understood when it was written. As such, Gorsuch is very opposed to the philosophy of judicial activism, which involves interpreting the law based on the current social and political climate. He once stated that judges should not “decide cases based on their own moral convictions or the policy consequences they believe might serve society best.”
Gorsuch’s signature stance has been his opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide, on which he has written a book- The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. Some of Gorsuch’s other well known opinions have regarded his support of states’ rights, freedom of religion, and a strict application of the death penalty. The ACLU has also recently stated that Gorsuch may negatively affect disability rights.
Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks to see if Gorsuch’s confirmation goes through!