On January 31st, President Donald Trump announced in front of a live press audience that he has nominated appellate judge Neil Gorsuch to be the successor to Antonin Scalia in the Supreme Court. The announcement was made with Trump’s initial promise to “…find someone who respects our laws and is representative of our constitution.” After Trump’s speech, Gorsuch was invited up on the stage with his wife to accept the nomination formally. “I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the constitution and laws of this great country,” Gorsuch remarked addressing the American public in his speech following the nomination.
Gorsuch is known in the political field to be an ardent originalist and textualist, meaning that he believes that a judge should uphold the law as written, and not make decisions based on personal convictions. One prominent example being Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., in which Gorsuch ruled that the company was not required to provide contraceptives to their workers since it violated the first amendment right of freedom of religion. He is also consummate Ivy Leaguer, obtaining his B.A. from Columbia University and J.D. from Harvard, Gorsuch is by far the most prestigiously educated out of President Trump’s initial three nominations.
The announcement comes during a controversial stage during the Trump administration, where his executive order to ban refugees and travelers entering the U.S. has gained both praise and dismissal from the public. So, when Gorsuch’s nomination was announced, Americans were unexpectedly much more open to this decision.
Since the nomination, there has been a surprising amount of opinion pieces that have circulated appearing not to necessarily praise, but be content with the decision. Acting solicitor general Neal K. Katyal in writing for the New York Times opined that liberals should be supportive of the decision, deciding that Gorsuch’s “years on the bench reveal a commitment of judicial independence – a record that should give the American people confidence that he will not compromise principal to favor a president who appointed him.” Similarly, Mark Joseph Stern of Slate writes that the nominee “conveys his ideas fluently and courteously and is well-liked by his colleagues on the left and right.” He also stated that Gorsuch “has never directly stated his opposition to hot-button legal issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.” On the other end of the spectrum, Ed Whelan of the National Review says that Gorsuch “thinks through issues deeply. He writes with clarity, force, and verve. And his many talents promise to give him an outsized influence on future generations of lawyers.”
Of course, not everyone supported the decision. Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, told the Senate floor that democrats will stand to “actively oppose” the nomination through filibuster, claiming that Gorsuch is “hewed to an ideological approach to jurisprudence that makes me skeptical that he can be a strong, independent justice on the court.” And interestingly enough, another New York Times piece penned by David Leonhardt encourage democrats to oppose Gorsuch saying that the decision “impedes the smooth functioning of the court and makes it a much more partisan institution.” Of course referring to how the republicans blocked Obama in appointing a replacement for Scalia under his administration.
There are a few way to interpret this decision for the college student. First impressions might suggest that his adherence to obeying the letter of the law might not allow room for compromise that students love to debate. However this can also work to a student’s advantage in interpreting the constitution, relying on the readings of freedom of religion, press and free speech that might be argued to counter any laws or orders that might jeopardize the welfare of students.
Picture Credits: Politico