On January 31, President Donald Trump announced his choice to fill the Supreme Court of the United States vacancy created by the death of the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia: Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Judge Gorsuch, a fourth generation Coloradan, is an advocate of conservative judicial philosophy. In May of 2006, President George W. Bush appointed Judge Gorsuch, who is 49 years old, to the Tenth Circuit, and the Senate confirmed his nomination on a voice vote. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, he would be the youngest Associate Justice on the bench in 25 years.
Judge Gorsuch received his undergraduate degree from Columbia University (1988), his law degree from Harvard Law School (1991), and a Ph.D. from Oxford University. He clerked for Judge David Sentelle on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, as well as Supreme Court justices Byron “Whizzer” White and Anthony Kennedy. He served in the Bush administration in the U.S. Department of Justice and worked in the private practice of law.
Judge Gorsuch’s judicial philosophy follows that of his predecessor Justice Scalia as an “originalist” meaning that he relies on the text of the U.S. Constitution as originally written, not as it might be interpreted by reference to recent events. According to SCOTUSblog, he is “an ardent textualist (like Scalia) . . . he is highly dubious of legislative history (like Scalia), and he is less than enamored of the dormant commerce clause (like Scalia).”
Judge Gorsuch’s nomination goes to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary for confirmation hearings. Unlike lower federal court nominations, which are not subject to a 60-vote filibuster and require only a simple majority for Senate confirmation, Supreme Court nominations must pass the 60-vote threshold—while only 52 senators are Republicans. If Judge Gorsuch’s nomination is held up by a filibuster, it is possible that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) may exercise the “nuclear option” previously exercised by his predecessor former Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) to force through Senate rules changes to eliminate filibusters on Supreme Court nominations as well.
We will cover developments related to Gorsuch’s nomination in more depth over the coming months. Stay tuned.