By Professor Christopher Schmidt
It was another long day for Judge Neil Gorsuch. Yesterday, day three of his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, was the second round of questions from senators on the Judiciary Committee. In the first round, senators had thirty minutes each to question the nominee; for the second round, senators had twenty minutes each. The headlines were largely the same as the day before: Gorsuch was composed and articulate, if perhaps a bit overly scripted at times; he gave precious little in the way of specific views on key legal issues or precedents, seemingly even less than other recent nominees; and things generally are looking good for the judge to become the next associate justice of the US Supreme Court.
ISCOTUS Co-Director Carolyn Shapiro offered her insightful take on the hearings on the ACSblog. “It is not surprising that Gorsuch revealed little, but it is unfortunate that the proceedings reiterated the clearly inaccurate view that Supreme Court justices are no more than neutral umpires,” she writes. “They are not, and we all know it. If only we could talk about it.”
When pressed to explain a case in which he joined a unanimous court in ruling against a claim on behalf of an autistic child against a school for failing to adequately serve the child’s needs, Judge Gorsuch said he was sorry for how the case came out, but he was bound by his circuit’s precedent on this issue. (The Supreme Court held on Wednesday that the Tenth Circuit’s standard was insufficiently protective for disabled students.)
Hot button cases were again at issue, although Gorsuch continued to resist saying much of anything about them, other than that they are indeed precedents of the Supreme Court and that he respects precedents. Senator Durbin tried to push the nominee to discuss Roe v. Wade, asking him about his past writings on assisted suicide, in which he considered questions about when life begins. Gorsuch resisted the invitation, stating that the Court in Roe held a fetus is not a person for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment and “that’s the law of the land, Senator.” Another case Democratic senators wanted to talk about was Citizens United. Senator Whitehouse, who spent much of his time yesterday discussing his concerns about “dark money” in the political process, urged Gorsuch to overrule the decision “that opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate spending on elections.”
Meanwhile, members of the Senate were getting ready for the upcoming confirmation vote. See reports from the New York Times and Time.
Today, the last day of the hearings, will consist of testimony for and against Judge Gorsuch’s nomination. Check back with ISCOTUS for further developments on the confirmation and all things SCOTUS.
This post originally appeared on ISCOTUSnow, the blog of Chicago-Kent’s Institute on the Supreme Court of the United States, on March 23, 2017.