How Neil Gorsuch, the Newest Supreme Court Justice, Could Shape US Law for Decades to Come
And then there were nine.
Neil Gorsuch has been confirmed as the next Supreme Court Justice of the United States, a seat with no term limits that holds the power to shape US law for decades to come.
He was nominated by Donald Trump and filibustered by US Democrats who objected to his political views, as well as the fact that Republicans refused to hold a hearing for President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.
But Republican Senators voted to get rid of the filibuster and change the confirmation rules to approve nominees with a simple majority vote, which they did this morning.
The Harvard Law graduate will join Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan on the bench. He takes the seat of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last year.
Like Scalia, 49-year-old Gorsuch has expressed conservative legal and political views, which could influence how law is shaped for many years, given his young age.
Here’s a breakdown on Gorsuch’s past views on the controversial issues facing US law today:
Religious Liberty & Contraception
Gorsuch sided with Hobby Lobby in the lawsuit against Obama’s Affordable Care Act over whether employers have to provide contraceptives to employees. Hobby Lobby’s owners had religious objections to providing some forms of contraception to its employees, and wanted a religious exemption to the ACA contraception mandate. Gorsuch agreed that religious exemptions should be given for sincerely-held beliefs.
Assisted Suicide & Abortion
Gorsuch hasn’t weighed in directly on Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion case that has governed US law on abortion for decades, asserting a woman’s right to have an abortion if she chooses.
But Gorsuch has expressed views that suggest he might view laws about life and death in a way that opposes Roe, according to the New York Times. In his book, "The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” Gorsuch expressed his view that “the idea that all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong."
He also sided against Planned Parenthood in a case in Utah when the group was accused of selling fetal tissue and the state’s governor wanted to suspend funding.
One of the reasons Gorsuch is a popular choice among conservatives goes back to a legal opinion he wrote last August that strips power from federal agencies and the executive branch, according to Politico. Gorsuch questioned a decades-old legal precedent that said that courts should allow federal agencies to interpret law and decide how they should be run; Gorsuch said that courts should decide.
For those worried about the court’s ruling in cases involving corporate power, like the Citizens United case in 2010 that found the government can’t limit a corporation’s political donations, Gorsuch may be cause for concern. He has issued opinions in favor of businesses in the past, according to CNN.
A case from 2009 concerned a truck driver who decided to abandon his TransAm truck on the side of the road after his brakes froze and the company told him he either had to wait (in subzero temperatures) for a repair or drive the truck without brakes along the highway. He instead unhitched the truck and drove away and the company fired him for the decision, so he filed a complaint. Gorsuch ruled in favor of TransAm.
"A trucker was stranded on the side of the road, late at night, in cold weather, and his trailer brakes were stuck," Gorsuch wrote. "It might be fair to ask whether TransAm's decision was a wise or kind one, but it's not our job to answer questions like that. Our only task is to decide whether the decision was an illegal one."