MACLANE: Gorsuch is prime pick for Supreme Court


Opinions Column: Conservative Hot Corner


The sudden and unexpected death of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in February of 2016 produced a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Scalia was originally nominated by former President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and was one of five judges on the bench who had been appointed by a Republican president. This reduction to eight judges, four being Democratic appointments and the other half being Republican appointments, has forced four to four splits on major rulings such as former President Barack Obama’s executive orders in regards to immigration.

Although this vacancy spawned under the Obama administration, the obstructionism pursued by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the Republican Senate kept the seat under the jurisdiction of President Donald J. Trump. The Republican Senate was so steadfast on this notion that they refused to even give Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, a hearing, no less a general vote in the Senate.

To replace Justice Scalia, Trump has nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch is currently a judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, a position to which former President George W. Bush nominated him in 2006. Not a single Democratic senator opposed his nomination, which was subject to Senate approval, and this included notable senators such as current Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Gorsuch’s educational background is superb. In 1988, he graduated from Columbia University and then continued on to Harvard Law School where he received his Juris Doctor. Later in 2004, Gorsuch received a Doctor of Philosophy in Law from University College, Oxford.

Gorsuch has experience as a judicial clerk on the Supreme Court. From 1993 to 1994, he clerked for both former Justice Byron White and current Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The substance of Gorsuch’s beliefs is what really qualifies him to be a justice on the Supreme Court. Judicial activism and overreach have become a feature of the United States court system which was never intended by the founding fathers. Judge Gorsuch is strongly against judicial activism and the politicization of the courts. In 2005, he wrote in National Review, “This overweening addiction to the courtroom as the place to debate social policy is bad for the country and bad for the judiciary. In the legislative arena, especially when the country is closely divided, compromises tend to be the rule the day. But when judges rule this or that policy unconstitutional, there’s little room for compromise: One side must win, the other must lose …” It is the role of the legislators to legislate, not for the courts to legislate meaning they should be totally apolitical, which is something Gorsuch supports.

Gorsuch is a textualist when it comes to interpreting the Constitution. This means he will interpret the Constitution based on when it was written rather than judging it as a living document. The idea of the Constitution being thought of as a living document began with former President Woodrow Wilson as a way of justifying his many federal overreaches. In the situation it needs updating, it needs to be amended, not subjectively reinterpreted in a way that can easily be manipulated for political gains.

Gorsuch is against the Chevron Deference, which has allowed for the growth of a bloated bureaucracy. The Chevron Deference is born out of the Supreme Court case of Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. It defers interpretation of administrative law to the administration agencies rather than the courts. This has allowed for the loose interpretation of legislation, which resulted in the creation of 97,000 pages of regulations in 2016 alone. In his concurring opinion in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, Gorsuch affirms his position on the need to relook at the Chevron Deference, as it has allowed “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.”

Gorsuch’s track record makes him an excellent candidate to succeed Scalia. However, this does not mean be will have an easy pathway. A battle in the Senate awaits, as Democrats are ready to take their revenge for not even having a vote on Garland. Sen. Schumer has already insinuated that the Democrats will filibuster any pick made by Trump. McConnell’s reluctance to use the nuclear option, meaning changing the rule from requiring 60 votes for cloture to just a simple majority, indicates that the Republicans will need to convince eight Democrats to vote for Gorsuch. This is not an impossible feat, considering that of the 25 Democratic senators up for reelection in 2018, nine are in serious danger of being lost. Senators such as Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) could be looking to appease their constituency. The Republicans have a fight ahead of them, but it is certainly not an impossible one.

Daniel MacLane is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science. His column, "Conservative Hot Corner," runs on alternate Mondays.


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Daniel MacLane

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