by Stephen Calandrino
On February 13th, 2016, America lost one of the Constitution’s fiercest defenders, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Appointed to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan in 1986, Justice Scalia claimed his place in history as, to quote his colleague Justice Elena Kagan, “one of the most important Supreme Court justices ever, and also one of the greatest”. Justice Scalia worked tirelessly to protect individual and states’ rights from federal overreach, even if it meant ruling on the side of defendants he was less than personally sympathetic to, like in Texas v. Johnson which determined that flag burning, while abhorrent, was protected by the First Amendment. His most influential decision however was arguably DC v. Heller, where he reaffirmed individual’s rights to own firearms.
Nearly a year after Justice Scalia’s passing, President Donald Trump announced his selection of 10th Circuit Court Judge Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee. Judge Gorsuch’s nomination was praised by not only figures on the right, but also from some on the left like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He has also received the highest rating possible of any Supreme Court nominee by the American Bar Association, the largest voluntarily legal association in the nation. Perhaps the most important indicator signaling Gorsuch’s eventual success is the fact that he previously passed through the senate unanimously in 2006, with the approval of then Senators Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton.
Gorsuch, along with holding an undergraduate degree from Columbia and a doctorate from Oxford, is a Harvard Law alumni like the late Justice Scalia.
This is not the end of their similarities, however, as both men shared the same originalist view of the Constitution, which means that Constitution and other laws must be interpreted the way it is written, and that it is never the place of the judicial branch to legislate from the bench. They are also both connected via the Reagan administration, as both Justice Scalia and Gorsuch’s mother Anne were both Reagan appointees.
During Senate confirmation hearings, some Senate Democrats, desperate to disrupt President Trump at all junctures, have tried to bait Gorsuch into criticizing his own originalist philosophy or President Trump himself. None of these attempts have proven successful, and Gorsuch has come across as knowledgeable and poised. The most notable highlight of the entire hearing is arguably when Dick Durbin (D-IL) tried to paint Gorsuch as a sexist (as the left attempted to do with Justice Clarence Thomas) by asking about complaints from a former student (and Democratic aide) Jennifer Siske that he had said that law firms should ask about female job applicants potential pregnancy plans. Neil Gorsuch set the record straight, and revealed he was in fact criticizing firms who asked such questions, and shared the story of how his mother was asked similar questions when she left law school.
No one will ever be able to truly replace Justice Scalia. But if anyone can hope to fill his role, it’s Judge Gorsuch.