The Making of a Supreme Court Justice

ICYMI news from the legislature this week, please take a few minutes now to respond to our Action Alert on SB 1367 to give babies surviving an abortion every chance at life. Also, the CAP-supported SB 1439 to protect the rights of conscience for health care providers treating patients at the end of life is on Governor Ducey’s desk. More info is on our Bill Tracker here.

Now, our take on one of the week’s major developments from Washington…

The Making of a Supreme Court Justice

Judge Neil Gorsuch endured two days of questioning by senators in Washington and the big take-away is his commitment to the constitutional role of a judge. He schooled all willing to listen about the proper role of a judge.

With loyalties to no one and commitment only to the Constitution, the Supreme Court nominee declined to show his hand to senators trying desperately to pin him down on where he stands on key issues and how he would rule on related cases.

On the role of a judge:

From Judge Gorsuch’s opening statement: “When I put on the robe, I am also reminded that under our Constitution, it is for this body, the people’s representatives, to make new laws… and for neutral and independent judges to apply the law in the people’s disputes. If judges were just secret legislators, declaring not what the law is but what they would like it to be, the very idea of a government by the people and for the people would be at risk. As Alexander Hamilton explained, “liberty can have nothing to fear from” judges who apply the law, but liberty “ha[s] everything to fear” if judges try to legislate too.”

On separating beliefs from rulings:

Judge Gorsuch explained, “I listen to the arguments made, I read the briefs that are put to me. I listen to my colleagues carefully. I listen to the lawyers in the well… I take the judicial process very seriously… I leave all the other stuff at home. And I make a decision based on the facts and the law.”

When asked if he will be faithful to the Constitution and not favor a litigant, Gorsuch replied, “I guarantee you no more and I promise you no less.”

On Roe v. Wade:

Under relentless questioning about his views of abortion and Roe v. Wade, Judge Gorsuch repeatedly declined to offer any opinion.

When asked if Roe v. Wade was decided correctly, Gorsuch answered, “If it looks like I’m giving hints or previews or intonations about how I would rule, that would be the beginning of the end.”

When asked to give an example of a Supreme Court case that he doesn’t like but would uphold, the Judge again simply declined to answer because it would require him to forecast his views on issues he may be called upon to decide in a future case.

On physician-assisted suicide:

Judge Gorsuch wrote a book in which he opposed assisted suicide. During the hearings he stated his personal views would have no role in his duties as a judge, and noted the Supreme Court has ruled that states may allow laws such as California’s.

On absence of loyalty to political party or president:

When asked what vision does he share with President Trump, Gorsuch replied,  “Respectfully, none of you speaks for me. I am a judge. I am independent. I make up my own mind… You better believe I expect judicial decrees to be obeyed.”

When asked if he would have trouble ruling against a president who appointed him, Gorsuch answered, “That’s a softball. I have no difficulty ruling against any party based on what the law and the facts of the particular case requires.”

Judge Gorsuch continued, “A good judge doesn’t give a wit about politics or the political implications of his or her decision, besides where the law takes him or her, fearlessly. There is no such thing as a Democratic or Republican judge.”

Read Gorsuch’s full opening statement here.

Arizona senators’ take on Gorsuch:

Senator Flake tried to lighten up the long and intense questioning with a question texted to him from his teenage son. Watch here. Watch more of Senator Flake’s questioning here.

Senator John McCain has posted his thoughts on the Supreme Court nominee on his website here.

See Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse’s fun exchange with Judge Gorsuch regarding the judge’s inadvertent use of the term “bigly” here.

Read the various analyses of the hearings:

Washington Post

Daily Signal

David French at National Review

David French on Gorsuch and religious freedom

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