WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump named a Colorado judge as his pick for the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday night.
Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch, a fourth generation Coloradan who sits on the 10th U.S. 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
Gorsuch, 48, was appointed to the 10th Circuit by then-President George W. Bush in 2006 and lives in Boulder.
Gorsuch has a very impressive resume. He attended Columbia, Harvard and Oxford universities. He has worked with some of the top Washington law firms, the U.S. Justice Department and as clerk for two judges on the Supreme Court.
Conservative Republicans like him because he is opposed to assisted suicide and appears to lean against abortion.
But he will have a tough battle with Democrats, who are angry that President Barack Obama’s pick for the court, Merrick Garland, was never considered by the Senate.
Garland was picked by Obama to replace Antonin Scalia, who died in February. But Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, refused to even give Garland a hearing, saying it was an election year and the new president should get to make the pick.
The political move worked after Trump won the election, but it could lead to a huge political fight as Democrats have vowed to filibuster any nomination, still upset Garland was blocked.
It would be only the second time in modern history that the Senate has filibustered a U.S. Supreme Court nominee.
“This is a stolen seat,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., told Politico. “This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat. We will use every lever in our power to stop this.”
Gorsuch’s legal philosophy
Unlike others on Trump’s list, Gorsuch has an Ivy League pedigree, having attended Columbia and Harvard, and also studied at Oxford, where he earned a doctorate in legal philosophy.
Gorsuch is a former clerk to Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy.
“It is an extraordinary resume. As good as it gets,” Trump said. “The qualifications of Judge Gorsuch are beyond dispute. I only hope that Democrats and Republicans can come together for one, for the good of the country.”
On the bench, he joined an opinion siding with closely held corporations who believed that the so called contraceptive mandate of Obamacare violated their religious beliefs.
The ruling was later upheld by the Supreme Court. Gorsuch wrote separately, holding that the mandate infringed upon the owners’ religious beliefs “requiring them to lend what their religion teaches to be an impermissible degree of assistance to the commission of what their religion teaches to be a moral wrong.”
He also wrote a majority opinion in a separation of powers case holding that too much deference was given to administrative agencies. This issue is a favorite of conservatives and Gorsuch’s beliefs align with those of Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas.
Gorsuch, in a speech last year at Case Western Reserve University School of law, aligned himself with Scalia’s judicial philosophy.
“The great project of Justice Scalia’s career was to remind us of the differences between judges and legislators. To remind us that legislators may appeal to their own moral convictions and to claims about social utility to reshape the law as they think it should be in the future, ” he said. “But that judges should do none of these things in a democratic society.”
At the White House, Gorsuch said he would faithfully commit to upholding the laws of the nation, saying he would act as a “servant of the Constitution and laws of this country.”
Like Trump, he cited Scalia as a model.
“Justice Scalia was a lion of the law,” he said.
When Obama nominated Garland to take Scalia’s seat last year, liberals hoped they would get a liberal majority that would swing the court left on key issues such as abortion, campaign finance and voting rights.
But Senate Republicans refused to hold hearings, citing the impending election that was still eight months away.
Democrats have said they would fight the new nominee “tooth and nail,” putting not only Gorsuch’s credentials to the test, but holding Republicans responsible for what liberals say is a “stolen seat.”
After Trump’s unexpected win, conservatives rejoiced, expecting the new president to nominate someone to the bench in the mold of Scalia. They also hope that with three justices on the Supreme Court in their late 70s and early 80s, Trump might have at least one more vacancy to fill.
If, for example, Justice Anthony Kennedy were to step down, conservatives might be able to chip away at Roe v. Wade, the landmark opinion that legalized abortion.
Mother was EPA administrator
Gorsuch’s confirmation would mean a return to Washington.
He spent part of his youth in Washington when his mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, served in the Reagan administration as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
She resigned in 1983 under controversy after refusing to turn over toxic waste records to Congress.
He served as a partner at a prestigious Washington Law firm, Kellogg, Huber as well as principal deputy associate attorney general.
Gorsuch and his wife Louise have two daughters.