Professor Schmidt: “The Gorsuch Report—Week 6”

By Professor Christopher Schmidt

It’s week six of the Gorsuch nomination. His nomination hearings begin on March 20.

The first anniversary of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia (whose seat Gorsuch, if approved, would take) has sparked a new round of comparisons between the two jurists.

Judge Gorsuch, writes Richard Wolf in USA Today, “represent[s] the first generation of Supreme Court justices to have been influenced by Scalia’s rulings, writings, and teachings while still in law school.” Gorsuch’s writing has often been compared to Scalia’s. Mark Sherman of the AP wrote a story on his accessible writing style.

Some liberals are attempting to rally an opposition to Judge Gorsuch directed more at the Trump Administration than at the judge himself. On the Huffington Post, Elliot Mincberg argues that the hearings should be put on hold pending the outcome of investigations into Trump’s relationship with Russia and the Trump Administration’s production of documents relating to Gorsuch’s record as an attorney during the George W. Bush administration. At Slate, Dahlia Lithwick and Sonja West also called for a postponement of the hearings until questions relating to Russian interference in the election can be resolved.

For those who haven’t caught up with the New York Times report on Judge Gorsuch’s year clerking for Justice Kennedy (1993-94), it’s worth a look. One of his fellow clerks recalls Gorsuch as “careful, quiet.” Another said he was “calm, measured, thoughtful, polite, gentlemanly.” None recall him being particularly ideological. The Times reporters who wrote the story reviewed memoranda Gorsuch wrote as a clerk and found them “thorough and fair-minded.”

Gorsuch has clearly made a good impression wherever he has gone. A list of Harvard Law School classmates (who describe themselves as “Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and independents; progressives, conservatives and moderates; religious and non-observant; married, single and divorced; men and women; straight and gay”) signed a letter supporting his appointment to the Court. “Judge Neil Gorsuch is a person for all seasons,” they wrote. He gives Republicans “a disinterested philosophy that respects judicial modesty combined with compassionate appreciation of the lives impacted by his decisions.” He gives Democrats “a reasonable, qualified, intelligent person who will give each case fair and impartial consideration on its merits with sensitivity to our nation’s history, values, aspirations and constitutional traditions.”

Going deeper into Gorsuch’s past, 150 of his college classmates submitted a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of his appointment to the Senate Judiciary Committee. They describe him as “a serious and brilliant student who earned deep respect from teachers and students alike.” He had an “unflagging commitment to respectful and open dialogue on campus.” Furthermore, he was “an upstanding person and a devoted friend; a man of unyielding integrity, faith in our institutions and unfailing politeness.” (The New York Times published an account of Gorsuch’s conservatism during his time at Columbia, which focused on resisting liberal orthodoxy on various political issues of the day.)

This post originally appeared on ISCOTUSnow, the blog of Chicago-Kent’s Institute on the Supreme Court of the United States, on March 9, 2017.

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