By Professor Christopher W. Schmidt
It has been over a week since President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. The widely respected and impressively credentialed Judge Gorsuch, currently sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
The nomination was met with the predictable outpouring of support from Republicans, while the response from Democrats has been more mixed. Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein praised Gorsuch calling him “caring” and “obviously legally very smart.” CBS News reports that Senator Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, did not promise a vote for Gorsuch but describes him as “impressive.”
In an article posted on Politico, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer laid the groundwork for challenge to Gorsuch. The Senate is “doing its job by critically evaluating” Gorsuch, he explains, emphasizing the distinction between the Senate supporting a judge for a federal bench position, and supporting a judge for a Supreme Court bench position.
Feinstein and others have noted Gorsuch’s young age: at 49-years-old, Gorsuch would be the youngest member of the Court by seven years (Justice Kagan, 56, is the next youngest). Since 1900, only 12 justices have been nominated at a younger age than Gorsuch. Current justice Clarence Thomas was nominated by George H.W. Bush in 1991, at the age of 43.
Another common topic of commentary is how Gorsuch compares to the late Justice Scalia, whose seat he would take if confirmed. The Huffington Post breaks down Gorsuch’s stance on a variety of constitutional issues, concluding Gorsuch is a “Scalia-in-waiting.” Adam Liptak of the New York Times explains that the most notable difference between the two is that Gorsuch’s “tone is consistently courteous and mild, while some of Justice Scalia’s dissents were caustic and wounding.”
On this blog, Professor Christopher Schmidt discusses the particular value of the Supreme Court confirmation process during times like these when the value of the legal process and the courts are under challenge.
This post originally appeared on ISCOTUSnow, the blog of Chicago-Kent’s Institute on the Supreme Court of the United States, on February 9, 2017.