Judge Neil Gorsuch heads to Capitol Hill this week as President Trump’s nominee to be the next associate justice on the Supreme Court. He’ll testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in three days of hearings.
Even before he walks into that hearing room, critics have assailed him. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said last week, “Neil Gorsuch may act like a neutral, calm judge, but his record and his career clearly show he harbors a right-wing, pro-corporate, special-interest agenda.”
It is important to remember what is at stake and why NSSF supports his confirmation to the Supreme Court. Judge Gorsuch is slated to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, author of the 2008 Heller decision, upholding individual right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment. While Judge Gorsuch hasn’t had the opportunity to weigh cases surrounding the Second Amendment of this magnitude, some have pointed to his 3-0 decision on U.S. vs. Rodriguez, which involved Fourth Amendment search and seizure questions.
The Supreme Court is split 4-4 along ideological lines. Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation would sustain the court balance that existed prior to Justice Scalia’s death. More importantly, it would give the court a jurist with a record of sticking to a strict interpretation of the Constitution. This is what it means when he’s referred to as an originalist.
Here’s the real reason why Judge Gorsuch gives his critics fits. He reads the law as it is written. He doesn’t add meaning. He doesn’t subtract. He doesn’t search for gaps from which to add personal interpretation. He understands the court’s role isn’t to make law from the bench, but to call balls and strikes.
Sen. Schumer was joined by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) who said if Judge Gorsuch’s answers to his questions during confirmation were “out of the mainstream,” he would use every option to oppose him, including filibuster.
Judge Gorsuch’s disciplined interpretation of law is hardly out of the mainstream. This is what justices are supposed to do. His record demonstrates a clear respect for the law as it is written, not his personal feelings, right or left. Even the American Bar Association respects his record giving him its highest rating of “well qualified” by a unanimous decision.
A justice of Judge Gorsuch’s caliber is needed now more for the firearms-related cases to come. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit recently ruled in Kolbe v. Hogan that modern sporting rifles, the most popular firearm sold today, are “most useful in military service” and not protected by the Second Amendment. In effect, the 4th Circuit gutted the Heller decision by creating a different standard by which the Second Amendment should be applied.
Judge Gorsuch will undergo three days of hearings and it is expected his final confirmation vote will be put to the full Senate in early April. It is our responsibility to remind our senators between now and then that it is their job to write laws. It is up to justices to weigh them as they are written and none has a better record for accomplishing this judicial task than does Judge Gorsuch. NSSF has confidence that Judge Gorsuch is a clear choice to serve a distinguished career on the Supreme Court bench.