US president Donald Trump has nominated Neil Gorsuch, a federal judge from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado, to the US Supreme Court.
Concluding what he called “the most transparent judicial selection process in history,” Trump made the prime-time announcement at 8pm eastern time after a buildup reminiscent of a reality-TV finale. “So was that a surprise? Was it?” the president asked, before turning the podium over to Gorsuch.
Gorsuch, 49, was on a published shortlist of candidates that also included Thomas Hardiman and William Pryor.
He’s a conservative from a very Democratic, liberal area—Boulder, Colorado. He has a fairly typical resume for a Supreme Court justice, including an undergraduate degree from Columbia, law school at Harvard, where he was classmates with former US president Barack Obama, and a Marshall scholarship at Oxford University. He clerked at the Supreme Court, and later joined the Washington law firm Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, where he became a partner. He also worked briefly for the US Justice Department.
He has repeatedly been dubbed by commentators as the intellectual heir to the late Antonin Scalia, whom he will replace on the court if confirmed, both in terms of his ideology and style. Eric Citron, a partner at Goldstein & Russell, P.C. and former clerk for Supreme Court justices Elena Kagan and Sandra Day O’Connor writes on SCOTUS blog:
Like Scalia, Gorsuch also seems to have a set of judicial/ideological commitments apart from his personal policy preferences that drive his decision-making. He is an ardent textualist (like Scalia); he believes criminal laws should be clear and interpreted in favor of defendants even if that hurts government prosecutions (like Scalia); he is skeptical of efforts to purge religious expression from public spaces (like Scalia); he is highly dubious of legislative history (like Scalia).
He is also known for his defense of religious exemptions for companies that did not want to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s provisions for guaranteeing coverage of birth control for women under their employee health insurance plans.
Like many self-respecting, wealthy Coloradoans, he is reportedly an avid skier, horseback rider, and fly-fisher. He has a Washington pedigree as well. His mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, was the the first woman to serve as head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, during the Reagan administration, but had to resign after Congress held her in contempt for refusing to turn over records on toxic waste cleanup.
The nomination sets off what is sure to be a pitched battle between the White House and congressional Democrats, who are still smarting about their Republican colleagues’ decision to block former US president Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, from ever getting a hearing. The Republicans had announced within hours of Scalia’s death nearly a year that they would not consider any Obama nominee.
Trump in introducing Gorsuch, noted that his nominee “was confirmed by the Senate unanimously” when he was appointed to the appellate bench in 2006 by then-president George W. Bush. “Unanimous, can you believe that?” Trump said. “Does that happen anymore? Does it happen?”
Gorsuch said he was looking forward to speaking to members of Congress—“the greatest deliberative body in the world”—and said that the “towering judges” who have served on his particular seat of the Supreme Court, including Antonin Scalia and Robert Jackson, were on his mind. “Practicing in the trial work trenches of the law, I saw, too, that when we judges don our robes it doesn’t make us any smarter, but it does serve as a reminder of what is expected of us: impartiality and independence, collegiality and courage,” he said.
At 49, Gorsuch wouldn’t be the youngest judge nominated to the Supreme Court—Clarence Thomas was 43 when he was nominated by George H.W. Bush in 1991—but his relatively young age would presumably provide ample runway for him to help shape the court for decades if confirmed.
“Millions of voters said [the Supreme Court] was the single most important issue to them when they voted for me for president,” Trump said.