President Donald Trump promised that Neil Gorsuch would be a U.S. Supreme Court justice “in the mold” of Antonin Scalia — and that’s exactly what the youngest member of America’s highest tribunal has proven to be in his first year on the bench.
Trump nominated Gorsuch on Jan. 31, 2017, and he was confirmed by the Senate on April 7, 2017. Trump said then in a statement that he had the utmost confidence that Gorsuch, as “a deep believer in the rule of law,” would “serve the American people with distinction as he continues to faithfully and vigorously defend our Constitution.”
The Judicial Crisis Network’s (JCN) Carrie Severino told LifeZette on Monday that she is confident Gorsuch “is going to be considered one of the signature accomplishments of [Trump’s] presidency.” Severino is JCN’s chief counsel and policy director.
“The president made a campaign promise that he would nominate someone ‘in the mold of Justice Scalia’ — someone who would respect the Constitution deeply, who was going to interpret it as it was originally written, as its authors intended,” Severino said.
“And that’s exactly what we’ve seen. So I think this was his most important campaign promise that he has fulfilled. It’s very significant that the Gorsuch confirmation went so well and that Justice Gorsuch has shown in his first year that the president made the right choice when he picked him.”
Separately, JCN found that Gorsuch, 50, “is fulfilling President Trump’s promise to appoint someone who would interpret the Constitution the way it was meant to be.” In his first year, Gorsuch “has fulfilled his promise to be a fair and independent justice, deciding cases on the basis of the law and the Constitution, not politics or personal feelings.”
According to its assessment of the data it compiled as of March 2018, JCN dubbed Gorsuch’s record “noteworthy.” Gorsuch also voted with fellow originalist Justice Clarence Thomas in all but three of the 40 cases the Court considered during that approximate time.
Gorsuch defended religious liberty under the First Amendment in the Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer case in June 2017, arguing in favor of the church when the Court ruled that benefits otherwise accessible to the public cannot be withheld from churches solely based upon their religious foundations.
In Peruta v. California, Gorsuch argued with Thomas in favor of the Second Amendment’s protection for bearing arms in self-defense, even as the other seven justices declined to accept the case for review in June 2017.
Gorsuch also voted to partially lift the injunctions preventing Trump’s travel ban from going into effect in May 2017, although both Gorsuch and Thomas argued that the preliminary injunctions should be fully lifted.
JCN also found that “two of Justice Gorsuch’s dissents suggest he is among the justices most likely to scrutinize assertions of power by federal agencies,” pointing to his dissents in Mathis v. Shulkin and Garco Construction Inc. v. Speer.
“I think he’s got a solid ‘A.’ He has been excellent,” Severino said, noting that Gorsuch has “consistently” been “calling the court back to the core constitutional principles, the key question as to what the actual laws say” that the court is interpreting.”
“He is someone who isn’t going to confuse his role with that of a legislator. He’s going to put the law first, passed by our elected representatives — not try to substitute his own opinion,” Severino said. “And, as we’ve seen time and time again, he was clearly serious about that and putting it into practice.”
Among the key 2016 presidential election issues for voters was which candidate should be the one to replace Scalia, one of the most stalwart conservatives in the Court’s history. Scalia passed away Feb. 13, 2016, while on a recreational trip in Texas. Trump pledged to nominate a person who would follow in Scalia’s footsteps, while 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton pledged the opposite.
Severino noted that some conservatives who were “skeptical” of Trump ultimately chose to support his presidential bid because the “resounding issue” for them was that “we can’t have Hillary Clinton replacing Justice Scalia on the Court.”
“So I think for all of us across the board, Justice Gorsuch is indeed someone they’re very pleased with and are excited to have on the Court,” Severino said. “It’s a great unifying accomplishment for the presidency as well.”
Severino said that she and JCN hope and expect to see “more of the same” from Gorsuch over the next year and more and don’t expect him “to take any dramatic shifts” away from what he’s already accomplished.
“Justice Gorsuch is barely 50 years old. He’s going to be on the court for decades to come,” Severino said. “The key is just to maintain that focus on the key constitutional principles and that commitment to making sure you get it right every time, and just keep doing it — wash, rinse, repeat — for the rest of your career.”
“I think that Justice Gorsuch understands that and seems to be well on his way,” Severino continued.