Professor Schmidt: “The Gorsuch Report—Week 3”

By Professor Christopher Schmidt

Here are the latest headlines for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.  

The Clerks Speak Out. Judge Gorsuch’s past law clerks signed a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee declaring that his independence “will never waiver.” (The only former Gorsuch clerks who did not sign are two currently clerking at the Supreme Court.) The Federalist published a supportive statement from two of his former clerks, one liberal, one conservative. They identified three lessons they learned from clerking for Judge Gorsuch: “the importance of accessible and clear writing, devoid of legalese”; “the importance of stepping back from the law and facts on your side to analyze the holes in your case and the facts and law supporting the other side”;  and he “urged us to pursue a fulsome understanding of the nuance and complexity of the legal and factual issues in each case.”

Pegging Gorsuch. In a widely cited study, political scientists Lee Epstein, Andrew D. Martin and Kevin Quinn predicted that Judge Gorsuch would fall somewhere between Justices Alito and Thomas on the conservative end on the ideological spectrum of current Supreme Court justices (in the same territory that Justice Scalia occupied). Now we have another study, this one by political scientists Ryan Black and Ryan Owens, who argue that Gorsuch in fact would on the the far right on the ideological spectrum–more conservative even than Justice Thomas.

Remembering Justice Scalia. The late Justice Antonin Scalia died on February 13, 2016, just one year ago. Writing in Forbes, Evan Young, a Scalia clerk, remembers the justice and endorses his nominated replacement. “Neil Gorsuch is the perfect next Justice to occupy this special seat, just as Antonin Scalia was the perfect next occupant in 1986.”

Next Steps. We now have a date for the beginning of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee for Judge Gorsuch: March 20. “If the hearing goes smoothly, and the full Senate votes to confirm him soon afterward, Gorsuch could be on the court before the end of the court’s current term in June,” writes Lawrence Hurley of Reuters. In the Chicago Tribune, conservative commentator Marc A. Thiessen predicts that “at a bare minimum, Democrats will maintain a united front to delay Gorsuch’s nomination as long as they can.” This may lead Republicans to choose the “nuclear option” of getting rid of the filibuster for Supreme Court confirmation votes. “If Democrats try to block or even delay a vote, go ahead and push the nuclear button,” urges Thiessen.

This post originally appeared on ISCOTUSnow, the blog of Chicago-Kent’s Institute on the Supreme Court of the United States, on February 17, 2017.

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