Staying true to a campaign promise to gun groups, President Donald Trump appointed a conservative judge with strong parallels to the late Justice Antonin Scalia to fill the Supreme Court seat that has sat empty for more than a year.
The president announced Tuesday night federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch as his pick for Supreme Court justice. “Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline and has earned bipartisan support,” Trump said. “He could have had any job at any law firm for any amount of money. But what he wanted to do with his career was to be a judge, to write decisions, and to make an impact by upholding our laws and our Constitution.”
On the campaign trail, Trump said his ideal pick “would be Scalia reincarnated.” While Gorsuch wasn’t on Trump’s early lists, the parallels between Scalia and Gorsuch “can be downright eerie,” according to SCOTUSblog.
“(Gorsuch) is an ardent textualist (like Scalia); he believes criminal laws should be clear and interpreted in favor of defendants even if that hurts government prosecutions (like Scalia); he is skeptical of efforts to purge religious expression from public spaces (like Scalia); he is highly dubious of legislative history (like Scalia); and he is less than enamored of the dormant commerce clause (like Scalia),” the SCOTUSblog post says.
Gorsuch is considered a Constitutional originalist, much like Scalia, a man he also personally admired. “A few weeks ago, I was taking a breather in the middle of a ski run with little on my mind but the next mogul field when my phone rang with the news,” said Gorsuch, talking about Scalia’s death in a speech last April. “I immediately lost what breath I had left, and I am not embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t see the rest of the way down the mountain for the tears.”
If confirmed, the 49-year-old Gorsuch would be the youngest Supreme Court Justice on the bench in 25 years, and he’d bring about a renewed conservative majority to the court, with 80-year-old Justice Anthony Kennedy serving as the swing vote, as he has in the past.
Gorsuch, the son of two lawyers, grew up in Denver. His mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, served as the first female head of the Environmental Protection Agency under Ronald Reagan, and resigned amid controversy in 1983. He earned an undergrad degree from Columbia, a J.D. from Harvard where he graduated in the same class as former President Obama in 1991, and a doctorate from Oxford. He served in President George W. Bush’s Department of Justice for two years before Bush appointed him as a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, where he’s served for more than a decade.
Gun groups wasted no time emailing statements of praise to the media Tuesday night. “We urge the Senate to swiftly confirm Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, just as it did in confirming him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit by a unanimous voice vote,” said NRA executive director Chris Cox. “He will protect our right to keep and bear arms and is an outstanding choice to fill Justice Scalia’s seat.”
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the gun industry, said it supports Gorsuch and also urged the Senate to fill the vacancy as soon as possible. “We are confident that Judge Gorsuch will serve our nation with distinction as an Associate Justice of our nation’s highest court and that his service will do honor to the legacy of the late Justice Antonin Scalia in the protection of the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans,” said Lawrence Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel.
However, gun control advocates voiced concerns. “Neil Gorsuch’s record on gun-related cases raises some serious questions and concerns,” said Everytown for Gun Safety President John Feinblatt in a statement emailed to Guns.com. “His past judgments appear to indicate an openness to making it easier for felons – people currently prohibited from possessing guns – to own guns. This is out of line with the vast majority of Americans and undermines law enforcement’s ability to prosecute gun crimes and preserve public safety.”
“Our army of Moms Demand Action volunteers will send a message loud and clear to the Senate urging them to get to the bottom of where Gorsuch stands: on the side of the Constitution and public safety – or with the gun lobby?” asked Moms Demand Action Founder Shannon Watts.
The U.S. Senate is now tasked with confirming Gorsuch, a process that could take between one to three months.
Article updated Feb. 1, 2017 at 12:09 p.m.